For any coach, winning in college basketball has everything to do with two things: Actual coaching (game planning, X’s-and-O’s, etc.), and recruiting. As Pete Bell painfully found out in Blue Chips, you can be the best in the world at Column A, but you won’t get very far without success in Column B.
That’s what makes the 7-versus-10 matchup in this year’s East regional so intriguing. On one side you’ve got Texas’ Rick Barnes; a master of the recruiting game (see Dime #47) who readily admits he’s been able to turn the Longhorns into a national power thanks to landing some of the country’s top high school talent (Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, T.J. Ford, etc.) moreso than his own genius as a coach.
On the other side is Minnesota’s Tubby Smith. He was run out of Kentucky partially because he wasn’t winning the recruiting wars for the nation’s top players — but on gameday, he can out-coach just about anyone in the profession. In resurrecting the Golden Gophers program, Tubby has secured some good recruits, but in just his second year on the job, he’s still working with a lot of remnants from the mediocre squad that was left for him when he arrived in 2007.
Going into this year’s Tournament, Texas again has elite talent brought in by Barnes, led by A.J. Abrams and Damion James. But as shown by the Big XII tourney loss to Baylor, as well as regular season losses to less-talented squads like Arkansas, Kansas State, Nebraska and Texas A&M, they are vulnerable to well-coached teams. Minnesota fits that bill, and with Tubby having five days to prepare for the Longhorns, Barnes has to do more than just roll the basketballs out.
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