Big 12 Team Previews: Texas LonghornsPosted by cwilliams on November 9th, 2011
Projected finish: 4th
2010-11 record: 28-8 (13-3)
Head coach: Rick Barnes, 14th season
Key losses: Jordan Hamilton (18.6 PPG), Tristan Thompson (13.1 PPG), Gary Johnson (11.5 PPG), Cory Joseph (10.4 PPG)
The 2009-10 season started out with high hopes and even higher poll rankings for the Longhorns. As we all know, after peaking at #1 in the nation for two consecutive weeks, the Longhorns collapsed in spectacular fashion finishing the season as a one-and-done NCAA tournament team. The 2010-11 campaign was quite the opposite. Expectations were not nearly as high yet the Longhorns thrived without the pressure, reaching a #3 AP poll ranking in February, defeating Kansas in Lawrence, and finishing 2nd in the Big 12. Did I mention that the Longhorns were not even ranked in the preseason AP poll? However, Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson both opted to leave school early to enter the NBA draft so now Rick Barnes has a revamped roster and will have to show that the Longhorns are reloading this season and not rebuilding.
The Stars: With Thompson and Hamilton gone, all eyes will be on J’Covan Brown. Brown will be the leader of this young, but talented Longhorn team. Last season, Brown averaged 10.4 PPG. I expect this number to nearly double, as he will be the focal point of this Texas squad. Brown is considered one of the better all-around basketball players in the nation as he can play aggressive defense, has great court vision, and can score in bunches.
The Veterans: Often times, when you see a team with six freshman, you don’t expect there to be much upperclassmen leadership. The Longhorns, however, have a nice balance of both. There are no sophomores on the team, and there are five upperclassmen. The pair of seniors, Clint Chapman and Alex Wangmene, have not exactly put up stellar numbers in their team in burnt orange as neither averaged more than 2.3 PPG. While the juniors and freshman will do the majority of the scoring (a heavy, heavy majority), expect both of these players to be vocal leaders for the youngsters, a task that often goes unappreciated.
The Newbies: If you love reading a long list of freshman, you’re in for a treat. Rick Barnes has done wonders in recent years recruiting and this class is a fine example of it. We have to start with superstar recruit Myck Kabongo. Already earning comparisons to Longhorn great T.J Ford, this Canadian guard has great court vision, and seems to be quick enough to get to the basket as he pleases. Rounding out the list of freshman guards we have Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan, and Sterling Gibbs, brother of Pitt star Ashton Gibbs. All of the players are talented and are expected to see immediate playing time. Though these three do not have the raw talent Kabongo possesses, they will need to find a way to make an impact on a roster that only has 11 players. At forward, the Longhorns will introduce Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond, two impressive prospects who are long, athletic, and can run the court.
Breakthrough Candidate: While Brown will likely be the leader of this team, I expect Kabongo to be one of the nation’s top guards, let alone one of the top freshmen players. He seems to already be a more polished player than many upperclassmen are and I believe his athleticism and ability to make the players around him better will allow him to thrive this season.
Why they’re better than you think: Texas did lose a lot of significant players, but the ‘Horns replaced them with a very talented group of freshmen. Also, the Longhorns have a nice blend of youth and experience, with six freshman and five upperclassmen. J’Covan Brown has the ability to become the next Longhorn star and is a focal point the entire team can rally around.
Points of concern: When more than half of your team went to freshman orientation in the last 6 months, there is always going to be reason to worry. Regardless of how talented this freshman class is, more often than not, there will be some growing pains. Also, while J’Covan Brown has the ability to become a star, he will need to readjust to a completely different group of players on the court so it may take him a while to adjust to his new teammates.