Alexis Wangmene

Preview

J'Covan Brown wasn't sure the Texas Longhorns would be back in the NCAA tournament before the season started.

He's glad he was wrong.

Brown, a junior guard, was one of three returning players from a Texas team that was seconds away from a Sweet 16 appearance in the 2011 NCAA Championship. During the summer, the only players he saw in the gym were fifth-year seniors Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene.

Texas added six freshmen before August, headlined by point guard Myck Kabongo. Brown, though, was still not convinced he would get another shot at the Big Dance.

"When everybody finally got in before school started we had a lot of work to do, some of our workouts weren't good," Brown said. "We had to find ways to put it together."

Now, Brown and the rookie-dominated Longhorns are in the NCAA tournament for the 14th straight season. Eleventh-seeded Texas (20-13) will face sixth-seeded Cincinnati (24-10) Friday at Bridgestone Arena in an East region matchup.

"These six freshmen are a great group of guys and the outcome shows they are willing to do whatever it takes to win games," said Brown, who leads UT with 20.1 points per game. "It really was a great experience."

That experience began with a pedestrian non-conference performance and a 3-6 start in the Big 12. Texas rallied to win six of its last nine regular season games before advancing to the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.

The Longhorns were on the tournament bubble for most of the year. But now that they're in, Kabongo and fellow freshmen Jaylen Bond, Sterling Gibbs, Jonathan Holmes and Sheldon McClellan are enjoying their first trip to the Big Dance.

"It's a great stage to play on and we've worked towards this the whole season," Kabongo said. "The (seniors) said to cherish this moment while we're here. It's a once in a lifetime experience. We're going to enjoy it and have fun."

Texas is also in unfamiliar territory as a tournament underdog. UT is an 11th seed for the first time since 1995, when they beat Oregon in the opening round.

The Longhorns, though, are fine with playing that role.

"I cherish it," said Brown, who has scored at least 20 points in all each of three NCAA tournament games. "People counted us out during the whole season, some thought we wouldn't make it. We're going to go out there and play and not worry about the critics."

Similar to the Longhorns, the Bearcats also had their doubts about a return to the Big Dance.

Cincinnati was a part of one of the low points in college basketball this season when the Bearcats brawled with rival Xavier on Dec. 10. Four Bearcats were suspended, including leading rebounder Yancy Gates.

Cincinnati regrouped to win 10 of its next 11 games and the team came out of the ordeal with a new take on the season.

"We came together as one," said senior guard Dion Dixon. "We rallied behind it, actually. We looked at it as a positive, not so much a negative. We handle adversity well."

The Bearcats are on another roll and have won seven of their last nine contests. Cincinnati advanced to the finals of the Big East tournament before losing to Louisville.

The Bearcats' success rests on Gates' broad shoulders.

The hometown senior is a force on the glass and in the paint and will challenge an injury-depleted Texas front line. Gates was third in the Big East in rebounding with 9.2 boards per game, including 3.4 on the offensive end.

"When he gives us low post presence and rebounding, it takes our team to another level," said Bearcats coach Mick Cronin.

The Longhorns are down to three forwards with Wangmene sidelined with a broken left wrist. That leaves Chapman, Bond and Holmes with the challenge of defending Gates, who Chapman compared to Baylor's Quincy Acy and Kansas' Thomas Robinson.

"He presents a lot of problems because of his size and he does a good job of getting position," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We're going to have to do our work early and not let him establish the position he wants, and we're going to have to do it without fouling. When the shot goes up we have to make a great effort to keep him off the glass."

Texas is 5-1 in its last six NCAA opening-round games. UT's last early exit was in 2010 against ninth-seeded Wake Forest in New Orleans.

Strengths:

The best thing Texas has going for it is the strength and depth of the Big 12. The Longhorns play in one of the top conferences in the nation and held their own with a 9-9 record in league play.

The Big 12 is the only conference with three teams with a .800 win percentage or higher (Kansas, Missouri, Baylor). It is also the only league with half of its teams having fewer than 10 losses (KU, MU, BU, Iowa State, Kansas State).

“I believe it’s one of the best leagues in the country,” said head coach Rick Barnes, who thinks the Big 12 should get six teams in the NCAA tournament. “We’ve played one of the best schedules in the country.”

Besides one of the nation’s toughest conference schedules, the Longhorns challenged themselves in non-conference play with games at UCLA and North Carolina. Texas beat UCLA but lost to UNC.

The Longhorns boast one of the country’s top offensive threats in J’Covan Brown. If he gets hot from the field in a tournament game, Texas could spring an upset. Of course, UT must be invited to the Big Dance first.

Weaknesses:

Texas is a team with a lot of potential, but that can only get it so far. The Longhorns have heavily relied on their group of six freshmen to help them wade the rough waters of the Big 12, and the results have been mixed. Each of the youngsters have had their moments, but they have yet to put together a complete unit performance. Barnes said inexperience has hurt them on the court.

“I’ve never seen a group of players practice as hard as they do,” Barnes said after his team came from behind to beat Oklahoma last week. “Sometimes it’s been hard getting that to translate onto the court.”

Nowhere has that youth been more evident than in close games. Texas is 2-6 in games decided by less than six points. In most of those, they fumbled down the stretch even with chances to close out a win.

Signature Wins:

The Longhorns beat visiting Temple, 77-65, during non-conference play on Dec. 17. The Owls are currently ranked No. 21 and have been in and out of the polls for much of the season. It is Texas’ only win versus a ranked opponent (1-7) and the victory has looked better with time now that Temple is a virtual lock to make the NCAA tournament. Still, the Owls are from a non-power conference (Atlantic 10) and one signature win likely won’t get the Longhorns into the field of 68.

UT also beat Iowa State and Kansas State at home, two teams that will likely earn at-large bids. But those victories aren’t anything spectacular when compared to other teams on the bubble.

Bad Losses:

Texas shot itself in the foot back in November when the Longhorns blew a pair of games in New Jersey at the TicketCity Legends Classic. Texas lost in overtime to Oregon State, 100-95, after turning the ball over 23 times and sending the Beavers to the free throw line 43 times.

Two days later, the Longhorns coughed up an 18-point lead in the second half and lost to North Carolina State, 77-74.
J’Covan Brown picked up his fourth foul with 8:35 to play and Texas ahead, 65-52. Brown said something to the referee as he walked to the bench and received a technical foul. It was his fifth foul, meaning he had fouled out of the game with a team-high 17 points.

UT struggled to regroup without its leading scorer and Rick Barnes called Brown out after the loss.

“We have a fairly young team and when your older players do that, it’s just wrong. He has to grow up,” Barnes told reporters after the game. “He’s been in the program for three years. He should know he just can’t do that. Sooner or later, he has to figure out that it’s a team game and he has to realize that it’s not about him. He has come a long way, but he should have had it all figured out by now.”

Key Players:

Texas has its scorer and its point guard in J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo, but now that their junior defensive specialist Alexis Wangmene is out for the remainder of the season, Texas will need its big men now more than ever.

Enter Clint Chapman.

Chapman has had his best year as a Longhorn, but he hasn’t been consistent. He’s only averaging seven points and five boards on the season, but has shined on the big stage before. He notched 15 points and nine boards in Texas’ first contest against Kansas and had a string of impressive games afterward. But in his last five, he has been in foul trouble and seen less floor time.

Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond will have to help him out. Holmes is averaging seven points and five boards in 20 minutes, while Bond averages three points and almost five boards in 15 minutes. The two will be up against some of the best big men in the country in the Big 12 tournament, so the pair of freshmen need to be prepared for their expanded roles

Numbers to Note:

Texas is ranked 51st in RPI rankings with 0.574 and have the 22nd-toughest schedule.

Rick Barnes has made the NCAA tournament all 12 years as Texas’ head coach.

This is the first year since 1998 Texas failed to win 20 games.

Published on Tuesday March, 6, 2012 as: Will the bubble burt? Strength of Big 12 Boost Horns'tourney hopes

Freshman guard Sheldon McClellan (1) hoists a shot over an Oklahoma defender Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Leave it to a freshman to salvage senior night for the Longhorns.

On an evening when Texas honored seniors Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene, rookie swingman Sheldon McClellan exploded for a career-high 24 points to keep Texas’ NCAA tournament hopes alive.

It was the final regular season home game for UT and its two seniors, but McClellan reminded everyone that Texas is still a freshman-dominated team. He sparked a decisive 12-5 run late in the second half to propel Texas past Oklahoma, 72-64, on Wednesday night.

The freshman exchanged 3-pointers with J’Covan Brown as each made two from the corner during the run that gave UT its first lead of the game. McClellan’s hot shooting helped Texas turn a five-point deficit into a 62-60 advantage with 5:40 to play.

“The momentum changed and we started to pick it up defensively,” McClellan said.

McClellan started for just the eighth time this season. He replaced an injured Julien Lewis, who sat with back discomfort. McClellan found out he would start on Tuesday, and was hesitant for the opening minutes.

A missed 3-pointer and a turnover landed him on the bench early, but McClellan regrouped to score 12 points before halftime.

“I kind of got discouraged in the first half when I was missing my shots early,” he said. “Coaches told me to keep shooting and that’s what I did.”

Whenever Oklahoma tried to pull away in the second half, McClellan seemed to deliver a timely basket.

“McClellan had a terrific night,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “He stepped up and made some big baskets at critical times.”

The Houston native’s previous career-high was 23 points versus UT-Arlington on Dec. 6. McClellan had a streak of six games scoring in double digits stopped on Saturday at Texas Tech, but he notched his 19th game with at least 10 points Wednesday.

Chapman and Wangmene were honored before the game, along with student athletic trainer Joe Martinez. Each player received a framed jersey and was given a special introduction.

“This was their last game at home and we couldn’t let them down,” said point guard Myck Kabongo, who had nine assists and is one of six UT freshmen. “That was a big part of our run.”

Champan greeted his parents, Kenny and Jenny, as well as his brother, Alex, and sister, Kelly, at midcourt during a special ceremony before tip-off.

Wangmene was joined by his high school coach, Joe Mantenga (Blair Academy, Blairstown, N.J.). The forward fought back tears while taking pictures.

Chapman and Wangmene are each in their fifth year with the Longhorns. Chapman redshirted last season. Wangmene received a medical redshirt during the 2008-09 season because of a right knee injury.

Their senior campaigns haven’t gone anything like the previous four, though. Both evolved into starters and are logging over 21 minutes per game. Neither player had ever scored in double figures prior to this year. But both have scored at least 10 points in six games.

“Myck made a really good point about finding a way to win this game for these [seniors],” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “That’s the respect that they’ve earned from these younger guys.”

Printed on Thursday, March 1, 2012 as: McClellan lifts UT to victory

Junior guard J’Covan Brown takes a shot against Baylor Monday. Brown, the Big 12’s top scorer, scored 18 points but committed a crucial turnover in the final minute.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Just when Texas looked like it had grown up, it played the final ten minutes of the second half like the same team that was 1-7 in games decided by six points or less coming into Monday.

The Longhorns spent the early part of the night keeping the Frank Erwin Center on its toes by building a lead and maintaining it by making plays at the rim and hitting open jumpers. They played within their offense and ratcheted up on defense. Alexis Wangmene even looked poised to make up for a horrible single-rebound, four-foul game against Oklahoma State Saturday. Yes, Texas finally looked like it was a bit wiser, a bit stronger and a bit more demanding of each other as a team. That unraveled painfully in the second half when Baylor’s Quincy Acy began toying with Texas’ defense like the future NBA player he is, making the Longhorns’ age show.

“Acy is just a beast,” Baylor’s Perry Jones III said. “He is a leader.”

Acy dumped 22 points on the Longhorns, Wangmene fouled out, J’Covan Brown turned the ball over in the final seconds, and Texas’ bigs were embarrassed on the glass. Add it all together and Texas is now 1-8 in games decided by six points or less and that statistic is more of a scarring characteristic of this team than a numerical trend. It is a mark of the team’s youth, and it is what separated Texas from Baylor Monday night. Though Texas head coach Rick Barnes has refused to make it an excuse, Acy was perceptive enough to exploit Texas’ age.

“They are a very young team, but I saw a lot of fight in them,” Acy said.

The Longhorns played inspired defense in the first half, holding the Bears to a paltry 7-of-25 from the field, good for 28 percent. They led 36-26 at the halfway mark and the Longhorns were coasting at a cool 50 percent shooting on the floor.

“We got too comfortable at that point,” Clint Chapman said.

They went 12-of-26 from the field the rest of the way, and the team’s mentality broke down.

“Their offense had some easy looks at shots, and we weren’t getting any easy looks,” Brown said. “We weren’t getting them as a unit.”

Baylor, led by Acy and guard Pierre Jackson scraped together points that only teams wise enough to know where to find them can. Acy got rebound after rebound inside the paint, including eight offensive boards of 16 total, and was able to convert easy finishes at the rim. Jackson patiently waited for the ball to make its way to him on offense as he floated the floor, as he connected on three of six treys and ended up with 25 points.

“We had a tough home loss against K-State and we really wanted to dig deep and not give up,” Acy said. Just because we’ve lost a few games doesn’t mean the season is over.”

It’s a combination of that lesson of resilience that has been lost on Rick Barnes’ squad, and an even more difficult concept of “listening rather than hearing” down the stretch in close games that has him frustrated.

“We have had trouble listening. We come out of timeouts and don’t execute,” Barnes said. “We start the game and we don’t understand the situations.”

Barnes was noticeably frustrated as he entered the post-game press conference and was finally forced to admit something he has avoided all season: inexperience is still plaguing his team and he isn’t happy about it.

“It shouldn’t be a factor at this point in the season, but it is,” he said.

Texas will need to grow up quick, or be prepared for an invite to the kiddie-pool that is the National Invitation Tournament.

Alexis Wangmene goes for a rebound during Texas' 75-64 win over Kansas State Saturday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The free throw line was the Longhorns' best friend in a game they desperately needed.

Texas made more free throws (35) than field goals (18) and engineered another second half comeback to beat Kansas State, 75-64, on Saturday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center. UT has won three games in a row.

"It's a great win for us," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We didn't have the intensity we needed in the first half. But in the second half we played terrific."

The Longhorns (17-7) went to the charity stripe 28 times in the second half and came away with 22 points. The Wildcats scored 24 points in the half and never made it to the line. Even Texas forward Alexis Wangmene had more points from free throws (nine) than the entire Kansas State team (eight). UT finished 35 of 48 from the line and 18 of 41 from the field.

Texas had four players with double-digit points, led by J'Covan Brown's 23. Wangmene scored 15, Myck Kabongo contributed 13 and Sheldon McClellan added 11 off the bench.

It was apparent from the start that the referees would call a tight game. There were 49 personal fouls between both teams.

"When the game started the refs were calling everything and we realized that," Brown said. "If you put the ball on the floor, you're going to get a call no matter what. We had to adjust to it on defense and go back at them and try to get to the rim. We got to the line and did a good job there."

The Longhorns started the game hot from the field and made five of their first six shots. But Texas struggled to get good looks afterwards, and missed 17 of their last 19 attempts in the half. Kansas State closed on a 22-8 run to take a 40-27 lead at the break.

But UT came out with a higher energy level to start the second half and used a 13-0 run to take a 44-43 lead. Texas cranked up its defense effort and got the Wildcats out of their comfort zone from the start and UT slowly pulled away.

"They came out in the second half and punched us in the mouth," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin. "They punched us again and again and again and got us on the ropes and we never punched back."

The Longhorns only had six turnovers against 16 assists, but they overcame those miscues with solid free throw shooting. The Wildcats committed 33 fouls against 16 for Texas.

Texas improved to 6-6 in the Big 12, tying K-State for fifth in the conference.

Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Horns beat Kansas State in third straight win

Preview

After redshirting last season to improve his offensive skills, Clint Chapman has returned to the lineup for Texas. So far he and fellow senior Alexis Wangmene have been playing better than some may have expected.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

After playing overmatched opponents in their last two games, the Longhorns head to California this weekend to take on a college basketball powerhouse in UCLA.

Although, it’s not what it used to be.

The Bruins — who are eighth all-time with 1,709 wins — haven’t been their usual selves in recent years, failing to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and getting out to a slow start this year with a 2-4 record. They began their season with back-to-back losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee and then, after a win, got pounced by both Kansas and Michigan.

The game Saturday will be a far cry from 2007’s thriller, in which the Longhorns knocked off UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, 63-61. Texas was ranked No. 8 at the time, UCLA No. 1. Both schools come into this game unranked. And, because of renovations to Pauley, the game will be played at Los Angeles Sports Arena — which might lessen UCLA’s home advantage.

The Bruins have talent — Travis and David Wear are twin transfers from North Carolina and Reeves Nelson averaged 14 points a game last season — but don’t have anybody who can individually match J’Covan Brown, assuming the junior guard is on his best game. Brown began the season by posting point totals of 28 and 35 in his first two matches, but has cooled off since, scoring just six points in a win over North Texas.

“I don’t really think he’s not shooting as well. I think he’s just picking his spots,” said freshman Jonathan Holmes. “It’s a long season, and I think he understands that.”

Brown’s teammates said he was in good spirits after the game, which is a good sign for Texas (4-2). Assuming Brown can’t find his shot for the third straight game, expect more and more touches for emerging post threats Holmes, Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene. Holmes is a skilled freshman who possesses an outside touch, Wangmene is a nice banger inside and Chapman is a finesse player who makes up for his defensive deficiencies with a nice shooting touch. Two games ago, Wangmene hit a career high with 13 points.

“I try to score when I get the chance to do so,” Wangmene said. “That’s one of the things I worked on all summer long. I had to make sure I am able to finish around the rim and make some free throws. I just wanted to add something to the team.”

Added Chapman: “Offensively, we have guys that can score.”

The weekend will be of particular importance for Chapman and Wangmene, the lone seniors on the team. Both are set to graduate this weekend but, due to the game, won’t be able to participate in their ceremonies.

Wangmene walked last spring and Chapman plans to walk this coming May.

Alexis Wangmene shoots over a Sam Houston State defender Saturday. Normally a difference-maker on defense, Wangmene scored a career-high 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the 56-40 win. The senior was one of four Longhorns to score in double figures.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

It was ugly, and at times, it was boring. But it was a win, and with the way the Longhorns’ previous two games had gone, they’ll take it.

Texas fell behind 16-4 to Sam Houston State (1-5) before climbing back and eventually pulling ahead for good, winning 56-40 Saturday night at the Frank Erwin Center. With J’Covan Brown struggling to find his shot — the junior went 4-from-15 for the floor — the team was helped by big scoring contributions from Jonathan Holmes and Alexis Wangmene.

“I try to score when I get a chance to do so,” said Wangmene, who turned in 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “That’s one of the things I worked on all summer long, I had to make sure I am able to finish around the rim.”

Wangmene, usually a defensive specialist, has played well recently, scoring a combined 17 points in Texas’ two losses in New Jersey. He was also a big reason why the Longhorns held an advantage on the glass, out-rebounding the Bearkats 43-37, with 18 offensive rebounds.

“One thing that [head coach] Rick Barnes has been emphasizing since the New Jersey tournament is to try and go get some more offensive rebounds and make sure we box out on the other end,” Wangmene said.

Holmes, a 6-foot-7 freshman from San Antonio, was a shade better than Wangmene, with 14 points and nine rebounds. He also swatted away three shots.

Those were the lone bright spots for the Longhorns (3-2), Barnes said. Texas shot 32 percent from the floor, which won’t be good enough in conference play this season. And though the Bearkats turned in an equally poor performance — shooting 32 percent as well — Barnes wasn’t very happy with his defense.

“I don’t think we were great,” he said. “[SHSU] didn’t shoot well, but they moved the ball around and got some things they wanted.”

Texas didn’t seem to have control of the game until Sheldon McClellan turned the momentum a bit with a big two-handed dunk in traffic with about four minutes to play. Wangmene provided a tip-in on the next series to move the lead to 45-35.

After the game, McClellan said the mood “just wasn’t there” and the team was either too trigger-happy or too shy.

“Coach got on us about our low-percentage shooting,” he said. “Some people took some bad shots, and he got on them. We passed up some shots we should have taken, and that resulted in taking bad shots. We have to know when to shoot and when not to shoot, know when to pass and when not to pass.”

Printed on Monday, November 28, 2011: Longhorns triumph despite slow start
 

With the departures of Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph, J’Covan Brown (14) will have to shoulder a greater scoring load.

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

For the Longhorns, watching three former players being picked in the NBA Draft’s first round can be both exciting and troubling — exciting because of the bright futures that await them, but troubling because they leave Texas a bit short-handed.

But there’s no reason to worry. Texas head coach Rick Barnes has established a program consistently successful enough that it doesn’t rebuild — it reloads. His squad returns some solid players, including sharp-shooter J’Covan Brown, along with big men Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene. There are also several promising newcomers, such as lightning-quick point guard Myck Kabongo, top-100 prospects guard Sheldon McClellan, forward Jonathan Holmes and guard Julien Lewis.

The Longhorns may not start Big 12 play 11-0 like Thompson, Hamilton and Joseph helped them do. They may not climb as high as No. 2 in the polls. And they may not have anyone contend for the Big 12 player of the year award like Hamilton did last season. But next year should see Texas go farther in the NCAA Tournament than last year’s team did.

The biggest reason Texas can improve from last year’s second-round exit is Brown. In the Longhorns’ biggest win, a 74-63 triumph over Kansas in their first ever win in Lawrence, Brown was brilliant. He was the catalyst of the second-half surge that put Texas on top, scoring 16 of his 23 points in the final 11:36 including consecutive three-pointers that gave the Longhorns their first lead, 45-44, at the 10:41 mark. Brown saved his best basketball for last, averaging 17.4 points in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments, shooting 46.2 percent from the floor, 96.8 percent from the free throw line, and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Chapman, who redshirted all of last season for the opportunity to start his senior year, and Wangmene will be serviceable big men who may not be dangerous scoring threats but can still pull down rebounds in bunches, as well as alter (and maybe even block) a few shots.

But Texas has always relied on freshmen — from Kevin Durant to D.J. Augustin to Avery Bradley to Thompson and Joseph. This year will be no different. Kabongo, a McDonald’s All-American from the same Findlay Prep school that Thompson, Joseph and 2009 graduate Avery Bradley went to, will likely take over as point guard next season. Next season figures to be the first since 2008, when Augustin was here, that the Longhorns will have a true point guard. Three others from the high school class of 2011 ­— McClellan, Holmes, Lewis ­— should get shots at playing time as well.

This is not to say that Texas won’t miss the trio of first-rounders. Hamilton was the team’s leading scorer, Thompson its top rebounder and Joseph had the most assists. They were three of four Longhorns to average 30 minutes per game, with the other being Gary Johnson, who just finished his senior season. Those are not easy holes to fill.
But with players such as Brown coming back and players such as Kabongo coming in, Texas has a good shot at making it back to the Sweet 16, or further.

TULSA, Okla. — Every time the video montage is played prior to a Texas home game, someone will either glance over at assistant coach Kenton Paulino and smile or give him a little nudge.

One of the highlights that plays on the Frank Erwin Center screen is Paulino’s game winning buzzer-beater against West Virginia to send Texas to the Elite Eight in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

“I can watch it over and over again,” Paulino said. “I don’t think it will ever get old.”

Junior Alexis Wangmene remembers that moment like it was yesterday.

“That was my favorite tournament memory,” Wangmene said.

Jai Lucas’ favorite tournament memory came in 2004 when his brother John Lucas III hit a 3-pointer in the Elite Eight with six seconds left to beat top-seeded St. Joseph’s in New Jersey.

“That’s a moment I will remember for the rest of my life,” Lucas said.

Every player on the team has his favorite memory from watching when they were younger. Cory Joseph and his entire family would gather around the TV every March and just watch basketball. Matt Hill would always try to find a TV in between classes in junior high and high school. Lucas remembers showing off his baby blue North Carolina t-shirt in the hallways of Bellaire High School after the Tar Heels won the National Championship.

Tristan Thompson’s favorite game was when Virginia Commonwealth upset Duke in the first round of the 2007 tournament because he would always love to see upsets.

“But now that I’m playing in the tournament I don’t want to see the underdog win,” Thompson said.

Staying out of the Pool

The Longhorns have no interest in taking part in a bracket pool. Lucas used to always pick the winner with his friends, but that tradition stopped when he got to college.

The team won’t even watch any of the analysis or predictions made.

“It’s just people’s opinions,” Hill said. “You never know what’s going to happen. Whatever everyone picks usually doesn’t happen anyways.”

Even Thompson, who said he never turns his TV off ESPN, can’t watch it. They do however watch as many of the actual games as they can.

Staying off the Beach

This is the Longhorns’ 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. That also means 13 straight years without a spring break for Rick Barnes’ squads as the opening rounds of NCAA Tournament usually coincide with the week off a school that most students get.

Every year, Hill has to hear from his friends about their trip to Mexico. Sometimes he wishes he could join them, but he is always content with his trip.

“I think I get the better end of the deal,” Hill said.

Lucas noted that the team actually gets two spring breaks including the Big 12 Championship week which they miss most of school from. He’s not complaining.

“I think I’d rather experience this any day,” Lucas said.

Basketball players know what they are getting themselves into when they choose to play in college. Sometimes that means sacrificing a relaxing week at the beach for a chance at a NCAA title.

“This is our fun time,” Wangmene said. “I don’t have any problem with that.”

News Briefly

 

UT men’s basketball player, French junior Alexis Wangmene, was arrested for driving under the influence on Sunday.

“Alexis Wangmene has been suspended indefinitely due to a violation of team rules. He will not play in [Tuesday’s] game,” said head basketball coach Rick Barnes in a press statement.

According to the arrest affidavit, Wangmene’s blood alcohol level was .093. In the state of Texas, criminal penalties begin at .08.

Wangmene was driving a black Jaguar without the front license plate and failed to drive in a single lane, said State Trooper Mario Garcia in the affidavit.

His eyes were bloodshot, his speech slurred and his breath smelled of alcoholic beverage, according to the affidavit.

He is currently in custody with bail set at $2,000.