The best show in college basketball rolls into Austin on Saturday.
No, we’re not talking about ESPN’s GameDay, which will be at the Erwin Center for the first time in nine years.
Trae Young will be making his one — and surely only — appearance in town before he lights up NBA arenas a year from now. The Oklahoma freshman guard is the nation’s runaway leader in scoring (30.3) and assists (9.5) and he’s got to be top 10 for flair and drama.
Texas fans, hold onto your seats. And your tickets.
“The college game hasn’t had a player this exciting and dynamic in a while,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose Bears were scorched by Young for 44 points in a 98-96 thriller Tuesday night.
“What Steph (Curry) does in the NBA is what Trae does for our game,” Drew added. “He’s the show. You can’t take your eyes off him. He creates a lot of interest in college basketball.”
While Lon Kruger, coach of the 12th-ranked Sooners, doesn’t want to put that kind of pressure on Young, his precocious 19-year-old doesn’t object.
“Who wouldn’t want to be compared to a two-time MVP and a champion?” Young told USA Today. “At the same time, I try to be my own self. Hopefully someday someone will be saying the same things about me.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins took a different tact when asked about Young.
“He has the most impact from the point-guard position of anybody I’ve seen since Jason Kidd,” Huggins said. “We played Jason three or four times, but he didn’t shoot the ball or score like Trae does.
“Trae’s ability to find open people and raise their level of play, along with his own point production lifts him off the charts.”
Oklahoma had another guard who won the Wooden Award just two years ago. But Buddy Hield’s game was shooting and scoring. Young also is a peerless passer.
“His passing ability is infectious,” Kruger said. “Our guys have taken a cue from Trae and zip the ball around better. And they know he likes finding open people, so they work harder to shake loose from the defense.”
The 6-foot-2-inch Young, son of former Texas Tech standout Rayford Young, loves the deep ball best, but he’s got a wide variety in his arsenal, including a smooth medium-range jumper, floaters and driving layups.
He gets to the line, as well, and rarely misses. His 204 free-throw attempts lead all Power Five conference players and he makes 83.3 percent of them.
“Trae is having a historic season,” said Texas coach Shaka Smart. “He’s the engine that makes them go. As good as he is at scoring, he does a phenomenal job moving the ball around. You’ve got to try to limit something he does, either preventing him from getting huge points or setting up his teammates from scoring big.”
Young isn’t flawless. His 111 turnovers are excessive and he recently went through a slump when he was a little too trigger happy. After a 12-turnover mess at Kansas State and a 39-shot night at Oklahoma State, Young struck back with 26 points on just nine shots, along with nine assists, in a win over Kansas.
“I was getting a lot of stuff back saying I didn’t like my teammates, I was a ball hog and stuff like that,” Young told reporters. “So I wanted to come out that Kansas game and show that’s not how I am.”
Kansas coach Bill Self said, “We didn’t need proof he can be efficient, but we got it. He made 10 of 11 free throws, too. Among everything else, you’ve got to keep him off the line.”
Young said he’s back in a groove where when he’s launching, “I feel like I’m throwing it into the ocean.”
That’s bad news for Texas. However, Young has seen few defenses as stingy as the Longhorns, second in field-goal percentage defense and third in preventing the three-pointer.
If nothing else, expect the Erwin Center to be jumping on Saturday as it seldom does.
“I couldn’t have envisioned Trae blowing up on the national scene like he has,” Kruger said. “He draws so much attention, it energizes the crowds and the players. On both teams. Wherever we go, it’s become a big deal.”
BIG 12 POWER POLL
Rnk (prv) Team;W-L (conf.);Next opponent;Comment
1. (1) Kansas;18-4 (7-2);vs. Oklahoma State (13-9), Sat.;Jayhawks halfway home to 14th straight title. They have 76.8 percent chance, according to teamrankings.com.
2. (4) Texas Tech;18-4 (6-3);at TCU (16-6), Sat.;Red Raiders, polar opposites of KU on court, only other team with at least 10 percent shot at Big 12 title.
3. (2) Oklahoma;16-5 (6-3);at Texas (14-8), Sat.;Sooners are 18-to-1 to win NCAA title. Of conference teams, just Jayhawks (16-to-1) have better odds.
4. (5) Kansas State;16-6 (5-4);at West Virginia (16-6), Sat.;Last in rebounding margin, Wildcats moving up because they do all the little things well.
5. (3) West Virginia;16-6 (5-4);vs. Kansas State (16-6), Sat.;Mountaineers have lost their way. They won 15 straight, now have dropped 5 of 6 and 3 in a row.
6. (6) TCU;16-6 (4-5);vs. Texas Tech (18-4), Sat.;Frogs lead league in FG- and three-point percentage and are last defensively in those 2 categories.
7. (7) Texas;14-8 (4-5);vs. Oklahoma (16-5), Sat.;Longhorns nearly exact opposite of Horned Frogs: near top in defending, near bottom in shooting.
8. (8) Oklahoma State;13-9 (3-6);at Kansas (18-4), Sat.;Doubtful any of these last 3 teams can reach 8-10 in Big 12 play, likely necessary for NCAA bid.
9. (9) Baylor;12-10 (2-7);vs. Iowa State (12-9), Sat.;Who could have guessed Bears would be 0-7 on road and last in standings at midway marker?
10. (10) Iowa State;12-9 (3-6);at Baylor (12-10), Sat.;Rebuilding Cyclones show signs of life in Hilton, beating Tech and WVU in last 2 home outings.