Big 12 Season Preview: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 12th, 2014

Throughout the preseason, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams, from worst to first. Today: Texas. 

Texas

Hey look, Rick Barnes magically became a good coach again! Some may have actually had this thought, but no, he didn’t become a terrible coach after one bad season. Those calling for his termination have to remember that Barnes has taken the program to heights not seen since the midway point of the 20th century. It’s hard to believe the same Texas team picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll last season won 24 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. Now with virtually everyone back on board for another year, the Longhorns are primed to jostle with the Jayhawks atop the Big 12 standings. Just like old times.

Did we mention Rick Barnes won Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Did we mention Rick Barnes won 2013-14 Big 12 Coach of the Year? No? Well yeah, he did. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports Images)

Strengths: A team full of freshmen and sophomores at key positions a year ago grew up rather quickly. Most can point to their December win at North Carolina as a turning point in the season. Then you throw in some tournament experience, a blue-chip recruit and a largely intact rotation, this has the makings of a colossal year in Austin. Myles Turner is the blue-chip center out of the Dallas area. The center and forward spots are in capable hands even without Turner but there’s little reason to believe a player of his talent will not have a role carved out for him by Barnes. The fascinating thing about Texas is that they don’t beat you with a star or two. At any time, all five guys on the floor for the Longhorns can beat you in a multitude of ways. Isaiah Taylor showed great polish as a freshman driving and dishing. Jonathan Holmes successfully took on the role as top scorer, rebounder and big shot-maker (see buzzer beater vs Kansas State). A slimmed down Cameron Ridley still clogged up the paint scoring easy buckets, improving at the free throw line and altering shots on the defensive end. Aside from Taylor, Holmes and Ridley, guys like Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert, Javan Felix and Prince Ibeh were hustling after nearly every rebound (ranked fourth nationally; sixth nationally in offensive rebound percentage per Kenpom) and block (ninth nationally in block percentage per Kenpom). I could understand if a fan of another team became annoyed watching them. They were like a fly that would buzz past your ear every few seconds but you could never find and destroy. It would not be a stretch to expect the same effort this time around.

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Matchup Analysis: Is Texas Built to End Kansas’ Big 12 Dominion?

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 6th, 2014

It’s been 10 long years, but the prominent question in the Big 12 remains the same: Will someone throw Kansas from the mountain top? There have been some fantastic runners-up in the Big 12 over the years and four teams have shared the regular season crown with the Jayhawks, so even if the streak isn’t quite as dominant as it appears, it is still incredible. Impressive as it is, though, consistency can be boring, too. With that in mind, it’s natural to identify the next-best team in the conference at the beginning of the season and ask the question of whether this is the year it can rise to the occasion.

Texas was picked second in the Big 12, but are they built to be the team that dethrones Kansas? (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Texas was picked second in the Big 12, but are they built to be the team that dethrones Kansas? (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

This season, it’s clear that Texas (on paper) is the second-best team in the conference. You probably know their story, but if you aren’t familiar, the Longhorns return nearly everyone from the campaign that saved Rick Barnes’ job and they fortified a strength with the addition of super-recruit Myles Turner. While rankings aren’t everything, Texas sits at #10 in both the AP and USA Today polls and appears to be about as good as any preseason number two the Big 12 has had over the years. With a double-round robin format in this league, the fate of the conference championship could come down to the head-t0-head battles (January 24 and February 28) between Texas and Kansas, so let’s take a look at those match-ups. To be clear, no team is built with the singular goal of beating another specific team, and any of a number of things could happen that would render this post meaningless, but the possibility is still worth exploring.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 4th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Texas.

Where We Left Off: The 2012-13 edition of the Texas Longhorns featured the first losing season in the Rick Barnes era. Barnes’ squad struggled to a 16-18 overall record and a 7-11 conference mark, ending the streak of 14 consecutive years that Barnes had taken Texas to the NCAA Tournament. Texas was one of the youngest teams in college basketball a season ago, and was without point guard Myck Kabongo for all but eight games as Kabongo spent much of the season in limbo awaiting an NCAA eligibility ruling. Perhaps many saw the disappointing season coming after the Longhorns were ran out of the gym by lowly Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. Regardless, it would be fair to classify last year’s Texas season as a disappointment, to say the least.

A disappointing 2012-2013 season leaves Rick Barnes looking for answers (Credit: The Big Lead)

A disappointing 2012-2013 season leaves Rick Barnes looking for answers.

Positives: Unless you’re a Longhorn optimist, this becomes difficult heading into this season. With Kabongo out for much of last year, sophomore point guard Javan Felix earned valuable experience as the Texas floor general. Felix underwent hip surgery on October 1 with no timetable for his return, but showed an ability at times last season to break down defenses and get his teammates open shots. Joining Felix are newcomers Isaiah Taylor, Kendal Yancy, Demarcus Croaker and Martez Walker. Croaker figures to make perhaps the biggest impact this season as the 6’2″ guard is considered a quality shooter, something Texas severely lacked last season. Returning sophomore Cameron Ridley was a highly-recruited player out of high school, but struggled to 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. The 6’9″ center will need to provide a boost to the Texas frontcourt for Barnes’ team to take a step forward this year.

Negatives: You don’t have to look far to identify why many aren’t high on Texas heading into this season. Kabongo decided to enter last April’s NBA Draft but went undrafted and is now a member of the Austin Toros. In addition to Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and Jaylen Bond all opted to transfer. McClellan and Lewis contributed significant minutes a season ago, averaging 13.5 and 11.2 points per game, respectively. As if that wasn’t enough, former freshman guard Ioannis Papapetrou, who averaged 8.3 points per game in his first season in Austin, decided to leave Texas to play professionally overseas. The plethora of offseason transfers, coupled with an underwhelming recruiting class and the disappointing 2012-13 campaign, and it’s no wonder head coach Rick Barnes finds himself firmly on the hot seat heading into this season.

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