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Ryan Greene

Red-hot Texas has legitimate shot at running the Big 12 table

Ryan Greene
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Texas thumped Texas A&M for the second time in two weeks on Monday night, and asking the question might now might not be so crazy: Can the Longhorns run the table in the Big 12?

No one has accomplished the feat since Kansas went 16-0 in the 2001-02 season, and Texas now has a strong shot at doing so before the league shrinks to 10 members next year.

Texas is 7-0 in the Big 12, and in the last 13 days — on top of sweeping the Aggies — won in an emotionally-charged atmosphere at Oklahoma State, slowed down and pounded Missouri and ended Kansas's 69-game Allen Fieldhouse win streak.

In other words, the toughest tests the Big 12 has to offer are behind the Longhorns.

The biggest challenges that remain are two games with Baylor, a home date with OSU, a trip to take on upstart Nebraska and a visit from slumping Kansas State. Those are all games they should be favored to win.

Surely, Texas is due to have an off night at some point, and going 16-0 in the Big 12 is no slam dunk. But the statistical trends are what indicate the possibility.

In seven conference games …

• The Longhorns are shooting 50.4 percent as a team, while their opponents are chucking away at just a 36 percent clip. They're not allowing opponents clean looks from deep, and those foes are just 19-of-100 beyond the arc.

Jordan Hamilton is peaking and playing like the team's unquestioned star. The numbers: 17.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 50.6 FG%, 41.7 3pt%,84.6 FT%.

• The Canadian duo of Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson are combining to average 25.3 ppg and 11 rpg. Thompson is the league's top post presence outside of the Morris twins at Kansas, and Joseph is 11-of-21 from 3-point range.

Dogus Balbay and J'Covan Brown are filling their roles perfectly. Balbay is playing 20 minutes a game, but only averaging three shot attempts and focusing on facilitating instead. Off of the bench, Brown's become more efficient with big-spurt capability still there. He scored 23 points in the upset in Lawrence last Saturday.

• Texas is out-rebounding its Big 12 opponents by an average margin of eight and out-scoring them 72.1 to 53.4.

OK, enough with the positives, because there are a couple of holes in the system. This season, especially, there's no such thing as the perfect team.

The most glaring of them is the Longhorns' collective 64.7 percent free throw shooting. It nearly cost them in a 71-58 victory over Mizzou on Saturday, when they were just 16-of-34 and allowed the Tigers to stay within single digits in the second half of a game that wasn't really that close.

So, 16-0: Will it happen? Maybe.

But Texas is the 'it' team right now and simply killing everything it sees. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

Ryan Greene covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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