RTC Class Schedule 2010-11: Texas LonghornsPosted by zhayes9 on August 15th, 2010
Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court. To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.
Team Outlook: Rick Barnes lost three of his most productive players from last year’s up-and-down campaign. The fact that all three of those cogs were selected in the top-32 of the NBA Draft renders their descent from #1 ranked team to first round flameout all that more disturbing. Barnes and his burnt orange faithful are ready to look forward to a new season where, due to the incredible depth assembled last season, the drop-off talent wise isn’t monumental. While Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas are primed to finish in some order atop the Big 12, Texas isn’t too far behind. It’s also not blasphemy to suggest that the loss of a handful of bodies could be addition by subtraction for a coach that often struggled to maintain a consistent rotation. From scoring wing Jordan Hamilton to the rugged play of Gary Johnson to the lockdown defense of Dogus Balbay and a star studded recruiting class, the Longhorns could very well see their season last longer than it did last March.
Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8.5. Coach Barnes has never been shy about loading up his non-conference schedule. That strategy certainly didn’t change in 2010 with a number of powerhouse programs both on the road and in Austin featured on the slate. After two warm-ups at home, Texas will travel to NYC for the 2K Sports Classic and face Illinois, a projected top-25 team that returns nearly all of their production from a year ago. Emerge victorious and it’s likely the Longhorns will face a Pitt team that brings back everyone but Jermaine Dixon from a squad that collected a #3 seed out of the always-challenging Big East. Texas was paired with USC in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood series game to be played out in LA. Finally, four rematch games will provide Texas with a challenge- December 18 vs. North Carolina in Greensboro, four days later in a true road game at Michigan State and two early January home dates with Arkansas and Connecticut.
Cupcake City: To avoid burning out his team, Barnes did schedule a few walkover games. Louisiana Tech is one of the two warm-ups for New York, but the Bulldogs lost both Kyle Gibson and Magnum Rolle. Sam Houston State is on the slate, a program that gave Baylor a brief scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March, yet once again they were hit hard by graduation. Texas State could contend in the Southland with a fair share of talent returning. Other squads on the slate include North Florida, Lamar, Coppin State and Rice with none of these contests on the road or on neutral floors. The Longhorns should cruise through these games.
Toughest Early Season Test: A matchup with Pitt at NYC would provide a stiff test, but this one isn’t even close: a true road game at Michigan State, a team that could easily be #1 in the nation when the Longhorns invade the Breslin Center. State only lost Raymar Morgan to graduation off of last year’s Final Four club that completed the run without the services of star point guard and potential First Team All-America Kalin Lucas. Other than possibly Jacob Pullen, containing Lucas sets up to be Balbay and stud freshman Cory Joseph’s toughest task. Forwards Gary Johnson and the other star frosh Tristan Thompson will have their hands full with a healthy Delvon Roe and Draymond Green. The Spartans are also incredibly deep and always well-coached. Still, they have been vulnerable in the last couple seasons to losses on their home floor. Texas will need an A+ effort to accomplish that feat.
Hardest Big 12 Stretch: It’s to be determined whether this is a good or bad break, but Texas’ hardest stretch comes in their last three contests- at Colorado, vs. Kansas State and at Baylor just prior to the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. Often times coaches wish to have their most difficult portion of the conference schedule early when the team is not only healthiest but also because it allows the players to gain confidence in March when the schedule lightens. On the flip side, steep challenges late in the season gives them a glorified warm-up for the NCAA Tournament and allows the coaching staff to get a better idea of where the team must improve. The K-State contest at home could be of vital importance for Barnes and the Longhorns so they’re not forced to split on the road against an ultra-talented Baylor team and Colorado’s 1-2 punch of Cory Higgins and Alec Burks.
Easiest Big 12 Stretch: Just before that brutal three game stretch to end the regular season, the Longhorns play six games where they should absolutely win five of them. From February 5 to February 22, Texas will face off against Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Iowa State at home while traveling to Nebraska and Oklahoma. Baylor is the only team in that group where the Longhorns, if they play to their potential, will not be favored fairly heavily. Texas is pretty fortunate to draw South division teams twice as, again, only Baylor is in the ballpark of earning preseason Top 25 consideration. Texas Tech returns Mike Singletary and John Roberson, making them semi-dangerous. Normal NCAA Tournament mainstays Oklahoma State and Texas A&M were both depleted by senior losses while Iowa State and Nebraska are miles away from respectability.
Best Individual Matchup: Texas’ rotation is extremely hard to project going into this season. Heck, I haven’t even mentioned Jai Lucas, J’Covan Brown, Varez Ward, Shawn Williams, Alexis Wangmene, Matt Hill and Clint Chapman, seven more players who could see regular rotation minutes as some point this season. One player I did mention, 6’6 forward Gary Johnson, could draw the task of defending Kansas State’s Curtis Kelly in their anticipated matchup, a game that I can already sense will be extremely meaningful in the Big 12 race. Johnson is undersized, but he’s also fairly long, extremely intelligent and has soft hands and a soft touch around the rim. He and Kelly are two of the most effective post players in the conference. With Balbay or Joseph doing their best to limit Pullen, the Johnson-Kelly matchup on the low block (with both teams lucky to have a handful of solid big men off the bench) could determine the outcome of an important late February game.
Most Challenging Road Test: Take your pick in this conference. The January 22 trip to Allen Fieldhouse is never a walk in the park. Their trip to Gallagher-Iba four days later is a trip to one of the most rambunctious atmospheres in college hoops regardless of Oklahoma State’s record (plus, it’ll give us pleasurable flashbacks to the 3OT classic a couple years ago). Colorado won’t be easy. The toughest road game will be the finale at Baylor, though. LaceDarius Dunn is the early favorite to take home the scoring title in the conference and Perry Jones was a huge addition in the absence of Ekpe Udoh. If the Bears figure out how to replace Tweety Carter, the Longhorns might be walking into the house of a top-5 team. And don’t forget about the unleashing of Quincy Acy for dunkface after dunkface.
Most Anticipated Home Date: Revenge will be a common theme in this segment. We started to see chinks in the Texas armor last season when they nearly fell to Texas A&M at home and were blown out in the second half by a mediocre Connecticut team. But it was their OT loss to Baylor in Austin that confirmed the Longhorns weren’t quite as special as all believed. The Bears return on February 12 for a Saturday matinee. Expect Burnt Orange Nation to be ready.
Upset Watch: This isn’t necessarily a giant upset given the question marks surrounding Texas heading into 2010-11 coupled with how insanely difficult it is to win true road conference games, but let’s go with the Longhorns trip to College Station on January 31 for a Big Monday showdown as the selection. Replacing Donald Sloan, Derrick Roland and Bryan Davis won’t be fun for Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon. It’s an opportunity for role players of a year ago- B.J. Holmes, David Loubeau, Khris Middleton, Dash Harris, incoming freshman Daniel Alexander- to step up their game. The A&M faithful are a lock to greet their bitter rivals with hostility.