By now, you've surely heard that the injury that Texas point guard Dogus Balbay suffered of Saturday afternoon was a torn acl and will miss the rest of the season.
The general consensus seems to be that this injury could actually be a blessing in disguise for the Longhorns. Balbay is an excellent defender, the Longhorn's leader in assists, and a vocal leader. But where Texas has struggled of late hasn't been on the defensive end; its been creating offense. Balbay, who is shooting a robust 10% from three this season, is a liability at that end of the floor. So much so that teams don't even bother guarding him outside of 15 feet.
With Balbay out of the lineup, it will provide more minutes for more offensive-minded players like J'Covan Brown and Jai Lucas, while also allowing Justin Mason more minutes at the point.
But could the general consensus be wrong here?
Could the loss of Balbay actually add injury to insult as the Longhorns look to get back on track after losing six of their last ten games?
Its true that J'Covan Brown is the most talented offensive player the Longhorns have at the point. But even after Balbay went down with the injury five minutes into the game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Brown played just five minutes as Justin Mason logged a season high 38. Could there be a reason for Brown being in Rick Barnes' doghouse? Take a look at this quote from the Austin Statesmen where Barnes was asked how Brown improve his standing in the eyes of his coach:
One word: consistency. In all areas of the game. That's what we've looked for all year. People wonder why we go back and forth. It's consistency. It's every day. It's preparation. It's the details. It's accountability. He knows what we need from him. He needs to prepare every day, not just when it's convenient. It's not just him. People need to understand what their roles are.Not exactly glowing praise for a guy that most expect to take over the starting point guard role.
The issue with Brown isn't the ability to score. Anyone that watched him go for 28 points, the majority of which came in the last eight minutes, against Kansas would agree. With Brown, the issue is decison making. Will he improve his shot selection? Can he improve on an assist to turnover ratio that is almost 1:1 (to be fair, he has been better in Big XII play)? Does he understand how to facilitate an offense?
You see, part of the reason that Texas needs another scorer on the perimeter is that it will open up space for the Longhorn's big front line to operate in the paint. But Brown is a scoring point guard and a freshman who sat out the two years prior to this season. He isn't exactly programmed to run an offense just yet.
What about Jai Lucas? He has great pedigree - the son of John Lucas and the brother of former Oklahoma State standout John Lucas III. But Jai has scored all of 11 points in Big XII play, and neither he nor Brown are as good on the defensive end as Balbay.
The third option is Justin Mason. He's an excellent defender and a senior. But he also had the opportunity to run the point last season alongside AJ Abrams, and was not as effective as Barnes would have liked.
The bottom line is that increased, consistent minutes for Brown and Lucas at the point may result in increased production from the two. But it also should be safe to assume that Rick Barnes knew his team's weakness was on the offensive end, and he still used Balbay as the starter, playing him the most consistent minutes.
Either way, the only thing I really hope for in the situation is a quick and speedy recovery for Balbay. He's a tough kid that plays with a lot of heart.