The Right Attitude

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In a sincere effort to avoid influencing reader interpretation, the following quote - attributed to Owls Fr. G Tamir Jackson immediately after the Owls' 77-59 loss to No. 3 Texas on Sunday at Tudor Fieldhouse - is presented without slant, bias or the slightest smidgen of editorializing.

"To be that close to a top-ranked team, the third-best team in the country, and people really aren't talking about Rice basketball, that was a big chance," Jackson said. "By this game, as a team we're going to get more confident to know that we can advance in the postseason. We can play in the postseason with some big teams. By this game, it helped out a lot."

Hubris? Youthful enthusiasm? Burgeoning confidence? Whatever the label, it was refreshing to hear Jackson broach the postseason subject on his own volition six games into his freshman year. It was as if he were subliminally setting a standard of excellence or dropping the hammer of expectation, brazenly noting that these Owls are shooting for goals far above a .500 finish. Jackson shared some technical aspects behind the Owls' defeat, then boldly went were few Owls have gone since those Michael Harris-Jason McKrieth-Brock Gillespie days.

 Playoffs? Apparently it's OK to talk about the playoffs around these parts.

And why not? After witnessing that playfully aggressive exchange between Jackson and UT ballyhooed recruit J'Covan Brown, it's obvious Jackson won't back down from a challenge. Fr. F Arsalan Kazemi is averaging a whopping 13.4 rebounds/40 minutes, and after gashing his head open following a nasty spill to the floor, he returned minutes later to rousing applause signifying his morphing into a cult hero. Jr. C Trey Stanton has been inspired, Jr. F Suleiman Braimoh is providing heart and hustle, and Ben Braun continues to push buttons with regards to rotations and personnel groupings. And his in-game coaching has been rather exceptional.

Riddle me this: If someone told you before the Owls and Horns tipped off that Rice would be within five points with just over six minutes remaining and with leading scorer Connor Frizzelle en route to an 0-for-10 bagel, would you have given that messenger a five-fingers-slap to the face? Sunday marked the second time this season the Owls rallied against an athletically superior opponent, with their toughness and tenacity quickly becoming hallmarks. That's how winning teams are built, with defense as their identity and good coaching as their guide. The Owls have both right now, so why not believe that the ascension will continue in earnest?

Because the Owls haven't won a game away from Tudor Fieldhouse yet? OK, that's a legit cause for pause. The Owls are 5-34 in true road environs since the start of the 2006-07 season, including 2-12 under Braun. They will play at Harvard on Wednesday, and the Crimson will provide a stiff challenge to a young team feeling pretty good about itself. Lose and the Owls will have plenty left to prove relative to mental toughness, but win and the train of good will keeps rolling. Consecutive home games against North Texas and Santa Clara will follow the jaunt to Boston, and that homestand precedes a pre-Christmas swing through Baton Rouge (@LSU) and Beaumont (@Lamar). The Tigers will be tough, but the remainder of the non-conference schedule is manageable right up to the C-USA opener against UH on Jan. 6.

This team has given indication that it will keep building and growing and developing. There is a synchronicity that is palpable, a camaraderie that is admirable, and a unity that is infectious. Besides, they are spunky and exciting and affable, so why not give in to the energy enveloping this program. If the Owls have the sense accomplishment is around the bend, why can't you?

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I agree. What's amazed me is the depth on this team. I did not know Herndon could score that impressively vs Texas' bigs, I didn't think Brimoh was anything more than the average mid-major reserve, at best. 3 guys foul out and Rice was still matching the Horns on the boards. Harvard gamr looming big.

Buho00: Hey, I've been saying for a while that Herndon is a good post scorer. He might be a one-trick pony at this stage of his career, but it's a mighty fine trick. He reminds me of Bill Cartwright with that elevated shot, and he has a nice array of moves from either block. He'll be good in spurts if used properly. - MK

What was your impression of Texas MK? I liked Brown and his defense but wasn't impressed with Bradley to be honest. Some folks had him as the #1 recruit in the country but he's no Aldridge, Durant or Derrick Rose I don't believe. Not even close. I liked our effort but as you said, we need to keep it going and not get cocky.

Mark: We have starkly different views of Bradley who, if he wasn't on such a deep team, would be better able to showcase his immense talent. He wasn't much taller than Holland, but he got well above the rim on the back end of that alley-oop. He got high off the floor to block Jackson, and showed nice form with his jumper. Obviously I really like his game. As for Texas, lots of good players but no real cohesion yet. I'll be interested in seeing what they become by late February. - MK

Great comments MK and hopefully by mid CUSA time people will have noticed and the House of Tudor will be rocking like it was Sunday minus the burnt orange.

Any insights today and heading to Harvard how Kazemi and Kuipers ankles are?

Tiki: No. Braun severely limits my access to the team. No player availability today despite it being a Monday, and no player access on days before games. I saw Kazemi following the game on Sunday and he looked fine, so let's hope that he's OK. - MK

If this team comes out with the intensity they showed Sunday at Harvard it will convince a lot of people that there is something going on at Tudor. I'm guessing that this staff will not let the team lapse into it's history of road funk or not get up because it isn't Texas. That point alone makes the Harvard game a real measuring stick.

I think that Rice is off to a great start but what is the deal with the half picks that they set in their offense. Frizzelle came out his first three games shooting over 70 percent behiond the arch so of course you will have teams stick their best defender on him and instead of adjusting the offense and really setting hard picks for your shooters you result to dribbling the ball around the top of the key for about 15 seconds of the shot clock and having to rush shots. If the bigs inside have not played so well on the boards like Kazemi you could of seen that Texas game turn out really bad. It just seems to me that your two guards on the team are having to catch the ball and try and create something because of either the lack of hard, off ball screens or Rice's offense is just so basic that teams easily can prepare for it. When I watch the Arizona game on tv the commentator for Arizona said that Rice's offense looks like that of the old Hoosiers offense and does not allow for them to explore the true talent that Rice has at the guard spots in Gorham and Frizzelle. So i was just wondering what you thought about that and if I was the only one that even notices the lackadaisical screens Rice attempts to put on defenders.

Owl_Fan_1: First of all, I would disregard the garbage that 'analyst' was spewing during the Rice-Arizona game. In all honesty I thought he was playing off racial generalizations with the Hoosiers comparison, but I don't want to get into that here. As for your primary point, UT did a good job extending its defense out to the perimeter and making it tough for the Owls to set screens in the proper location to run the offense effectively. When those screens were set, the Horns showed well or rotated over, and Frizzelle in particular hesitated hoisting the shot. When facing a team with that level of athleticism either the shot has to be launched quickly, or a decision to make the pass to the teammate who set the screen must come quickly. The Owls did neither one consistently, but it's not that easy to pass over length, which is what you get defensively when your big is setting the screen. That was the second consecutive game where Frizzelle passed on some quick open looks, and Kuipers did the same before taking an open 3 off the screen in the second half. As you noted, when those two start the season like they did they will generate a ton of attention, so the onus is on the Owls to make defenses pay for tightly guarding the perimeter by scoring in the paint. They did exactly that against the Horns. - MK

I am very thankful for Bobby Tudor. Whether it's the facility or the coach, the recent recruits do indeed look like the best since the Harris/McKrieth era. Sunday's performance by Tamir and AK was the most electrifying Rice effort in a long time. The overall level of hustle by the entire team on defense, rebounds, and loose balls was surprisingly effective. I would have liked to have seen Nate S a little in the second half -- do you know why he was kept out?

Overall a great and exciting effort at Tudor that is filled with promise for the months ahead.

Owlmaha: Schwarze has played in only two games this season, so I wouldn't expect him to be a fixture in the rotation. - MK

MK -- Nice article. I am getting more and more enthused about this team. The exchange between Tamir and Brown was priceless. Will you be traveling with the team to Cambridge?

owl-1983: Tearfully no. I love Boston, and was really looking forward to making the trip. But we are still working out travel snafus on this end, discovering through the process that rolling with football didn't require nearly as much planning. So sad. - MK

MK -- I heard a vicious rumor through the grapevine that Arsalan would not be traveling with the team to Harvard. Any truth to it?

owl-1983: Where would you place the odds on my commenting on an injury situation some 29 hours before tip-off? 100-1 that I don't? 1,000-1? Given all the problems that I've had digging out information of late? I think that I will plead the fifth, counselor. - MK

MK - Not asking you to break confidences or disclose "proprietary information", I am sure you will use good judgement about that. I was asking if you had any official indication -- seen a travel roster or been otherwise briefed. You are our man in the know and I am 2000 miles away.

owl-1983: A travel roster was not released, and there has been no official notification of his status. The next time I am 'officially' briefed on player status prior to tip-off of a game will be the first time I am 'officially' briefed on player status prior to tip-off. I get pertinent information through back channels and clandestine methods per usual. - MK

Saw a lot of good things out of the Owls in this game. I'd go so far as to say it was their best performance against a big time opponent since UConn and Okafor came down to the old Autry to face off against Harris, McKrieth and Co.

I was, however, supremely disappointed in the officiating. And I know from the postgame interview that Braun was too. What hope does Rice have of winning these games when even at home the refs put the free throw difference at laughable margins? Was it a Big 12 crew?

Every time UT's big fat guy catches the ball in the paint and is touched, it shouldn't be a foul. Especially not if Kazemi can be repeatedly clobbered and bloodied with no whistle blown.

MK, is Coach Braun just really protective of his team and information about it, or is there still a bit of struggle to get your job done as a reporter/employee?

Brookes: Both. - MK

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