Texas Longhorns (28-6) vs. Austin Peay Governors (24-10)
When: Friday, 2:45 p.m.
Where: Little Rock
1. Never Gonna Give You Up. Strangely, after last year's second-round loss to USC (which is almost fitting, really), the people least confused by the Texas Longhorns' early exit were their own fans. The prevailing opinion was one of satisfaction that was unexpected six months prior. Who can blame them? The 'Horns started four freshmen and a sophomore and carried virtually no depth on their bench. It's certainly no secret that a Texas hoops fan's expectations aren't Duke- or Kansas-sized, but maybe they had a notion that this was all part of Rick Barnes's long-term plan. To that end, Kevin Durant and Craig Winder were the only two departures from last year's squad. If you're not up to speed on the starting five: D.J. Augustin is among the best players, let alone point guards, in the nation, A.J. Abrams has evolved into an effective pick-and-pop shooter, Justin Mason plays defense as well as anybody, Damion James is a double-double magnet, and Connor Atchley can score from anywhere and is the Big XII's best shot blocker. Off the bench: Gary Johnson provides the skill down low which the Longhorns have lacked since Lamarcus Aldridge split for The Association.
2. Never Gonna Let You Down. After losing one of the best players in college basketball history, the fans assuredly would've forgiven Barnes for a Dance-less season. The play on the court, however, has rendered that a moot point. The Longhorns "share" this year's regular season Big XII title with Kansas (although we'll happily remind everyone that UT beat KU in Austin this year) and will have the #1 seed in the Big XII tournament. Additionally, this year's team has set a school record for regular season wins at 26, breaking the 2005-2006 squad's mark. The Pomeroy ratings have the 'Horns 3rd in offensive efficiency, 35th in defensive efficiency, and 9th overall — each one is an improvement from last year — and, if that weren't enough, it's all been done playing against the 9th most difficult schedule in the country. The 'Horns boast quickness and deadly outside shooting which helps them beat the UCLAs and Kansases and Tennessees but the flip-side is the lack of depth and undersized guards. Four of the five starters average over 30 minutes per game; all the three guards average over 32. When Mason, Abrams, and Atchley pick up two early fouls, teams like Wisconsin and Missouri and Texas Tech have been able to take advantage.
3. Never Gonna Run Around and Desert You. Years like these — teams like these — make Longhorn fans think back to the dubious era of Tom Penders and his Runnin' Horns. Although his success will always be overshadowed, even tainted, by the Luke Axtell debacle, he is credited as the man who renewed interest in Texas hoops — a tall order for a school with a football addiction and a baseball dependence. Barnes, however, has done something that Penders never did: he's made the fans think and believe that the Real-Actual-Accept-No-Substitutes National Championship, something that has eluded UT for its entire history, is just around the corner. — Patrick Nance
AUSTIN PEAY GOVERNORS
1. Name to know. Drake Reed: Austin Peay's best player is an Academic All-American and was the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year as a sophomore in 2007. Averaging about 15-5 for the second year in a row, Reed has a good chance to go pro. And by that I mean "play basketball in Turkey."
2. The governors that don't pay ho's*. Austin Peay's team is named the "governors," honoring the former Tennessee chief executive that hailed from the same town where the school was founded. They are the only D-I basketball team with that nickname. Before 1937, Austin Peay was nicknamed the "normalities."I looked up that word online, and I still don't know what it means.
3. Favorite team of six-year olds everywhere. Schools have designated cheers unique to their institution. Kansas sings "Rock Chalk Jayhawk." Duke chants the number of opposing player's cell phones. The Governors have "Let's go Peay." Peay. As in "urinate." C'mon, that's funny. Bonus Video: Not sure why I'm including this, but Dick Vitale hasn't changed a bit.
*Might not actually be true. — Slick Bomb