Fresno State (0-0) at Texas (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Frank Erwin Center (16,540) -- Austin, Texas. Television: Longhorn Network. Home Record: FSU 0-0, Texas 0-0. Away Record: FSU 0-0, Texas 0-0. Neutral Record: FSU 0-0, Texas 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 0-0, Texas 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Texas Longhorns begin the 2012-13 campaign without one of their most crucial performers, as they host the Fresno State Bulldogs in non- conference action at the Frank Erwin Center tonight in Austin.
Yesterday the news came that sophomore guard Myck Kabongo was being held out of this meeting while the NCAA continued their investigation into possible rules violations and his future eligibility stemming from allegations of receiving improper benefits. Kabongo, named to the preseason All-Big 12 Conference Team, averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 assists per game in his first season under head coach Rick Barnes.
In 2011-12, the Longhorns again made it to the NCAA Tournament, but they were quickly dismissed by Cincinnati in a 65-59 final in Nashville, which means the team finished with an overall record of 20-14. The rest of the Big 12 seemed to catch up to Texas last season, as the 'Horns posted just a 9-9 record in league action.
As for the Bulldogs, they've left behind the Western Athletic Conference and are now members of the Mountain West with a number of other WAC defectors. Facing off against an opponent from the Big 12 for the first time since 2005, Fresno State is led by second-year head coach Rodney Terry who took the group to a record of just 13-20 a year ago. Terry's efforts in conference play were rather lackluster as the Bulldogs won just three of 14 opportunities.
The schools are meeting for the first time since 1998 when the Bulldogs tied the all-time series at one game apiece with a 90-82 victory at home.
As if coming off a losing record were not bad enough for the Bulldogs, a bigger issue stems from the fact that they have nine newcomers on the roster, even though they are bringing back three starters. As was the case last season, the Fresno State offense will revolve around guard Kevin Olekaibe who apparently is free to shoot each and every time he touches the ball. That might sound like an exaggeration, but consider that the Bulldogs took 1,829 shots from the floor and 508 of those were by Olekaibe who ended up hitting only 37.2 percent of his shots as he posted 17.8 ppg. From three-point range, the team was 194-of-617 (.314), Olekaibe finished 92-of-272 (.338) and with a mere 39 assists through more than 1,200 minutes of action, it must be somewhat frustrating for the rest of the Bulldogs to watch Olekaibe constantly handle the ball. Tyler Johnson (9.3 ppg) and Jerry Brown (8.8 ppg) will get a few shots here and there, but clearly this team belongs to Olekaibe.
With Kabongo out of the lineup, the Longhorns are in even more dire straits with such a young roster that is short on experience. There are just two seniors in Andrew Dick and Dean Melchionni, two players that appeared in a combined 10 games last season and failed to score a single point. Now the spotlight will fall on Sheldon McClellan, a starter in nine of the 34 games in which he appeared last season as he delivered 11.3 ppg. Obviously this team leaned heavily on the departed J'Covan Brown who was good for 20.1 ppg and was second on the squad with 130 assists. Take him out of the mix and the next- best available passer, based on last year's stats, is Julien Lewis (7.8 ppg) who had a grand total of just 27 dishes over 32 appearances. Jonathan Holmes (7.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg) will have to be more of a force in the paint to give the Longhorns any hope of competing on the glass this year, but he will have to go about it without being too forceful.
With far too many questions on the roster and the loss of Kabongo right now, the Longhorns might be in jeopardy of being upset on their home floor to begin the new season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 71, Texas 67
11/09 10:38:13 ET