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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Previewing Texas vs. North Carolina

Posted by Taylor Erickson & Lathan Wells on December 18th, 2013

(Ed. note: news released on Wednesday afternoon that UNC’s Leslie McDonald has been cleared to play as soon as tonight’s game. This post was written prior to that release.)

On Wednesday night, Texas will head to the Dean Dome for a showdown with what suddenly looks like one of the better teams in the nation in North Carolina. North Carolina has had its struggles early this season with losses to UAB and Belmont, but has righted the ship with perhaps the best collection of wins in the country after knocking off Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky – the top three teams in the preseason AP rankings. Texas has opened the season with a 9-1 record itself, but has yet to see the type of talent that the Tar Heels will roll out. ACC correspondent Lathan Wells and the Big 12′s Taylor Erickson decided to discuss some key topics heading into the contest in the hopes of providing some insights to watch for as the game plays out.

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Can Marcus Paige continue his hot streak against Texas on Wednesday? (Scott Muthersbaugh / The Times News)

Taylor:  So I have to start with the obvious question: North Carolina has three of the best wins in non-conference play, but also has puzzling losses to UAB and Belmont. Which Tar Heels team are we going to see on Wednesday night?

Lathan: Prior to the Kentucky game, that would continue to be the prevailing question. But after their third marquee non-conference win of the season, it appears that UNC is starting to find some consistency. The players appear to be more comfortable in their roles. The fact that Texas has taken four of the last five since Roy Williams took over in Chapel Hill may be motivation enough. Speaking of adapting to roles, how has Texas been able to have such a solid start with a team that entered the season in the midst of major transition?

Taylor: The 9-1 start for Texas has certainly been refreshing to Longhorns fans, but when dissecting the schedule in more detail, it becomes apparent that most of those wins have come against clearly inferior teams. According to CBSSports.com, Texas’ strength of schedule to this point ranks 100th in the nation, 91 spots behind what North Carolina (ninth) has faced. If Rick Barnes’ squad is truly improved, it will have a chance to prove it with tonight’s game followed by one against Michigan State in a span of three days this week. That said, Texas has gotten solid contributions from big man Cameron Ridley, who went for 22 points and 10 rebounds in his last outing. After the way North Carolina handled the talented front line of Kentucky, is there any reason to believe the Heels will struggle to do the same with the Longhorns’ frontcourt?

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Big 12 M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Big 12 and college basketball fans alike: rejoice. Just days before the 2013 edition of the Champions Classic tip-off, ESPN announced that Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State will continue the doubleheader series until at least 2016. For the last couple of years (and of course, Tuesday’s blockbuster), the Champions Classic has been the perfect nightcap to an awesome day of college hoops. As far as the next three years will shake out for Kansas, they’ll face Kentucky in 2014, Michigan State in 2015 and Duke in 2016. Did I forget to mention that today’s opening day? The news lately has been prettay, prettay, prettay, prettay good.
  2. Good news on the Oklahoma recruiting front as the Sooners received a commitment from top 150 prospect Dante Buford. A three-star prospect from Arlington Country Day in Florida, Buford commanded offers from the likes of Miami, SMU, USC, Memphis and South Carolina. The news of Buford’s pledge comes two weeks after fellow 2014 big man Khadeem Lattin committed to Lon Kruger’s program despite holding offers from Georgetown, Arizona and Memphis, among many others. The Sooners may be stretched thin for big men this year, but fret not, help is on the way to Norman!
  3. Let’s be honest, expectations for Texas this season aren’t very high. But Burnt Orange Nation argues if the Longhorns are to surprise, it will come down to the play of their four big men. Those players — Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert — struggled mightily in certain areas during their freshmen (sophomore for Holmes) campaigns, but the opportunity for growth is still great. Ridley is a physical freak, Holmes led the team in rebounds, Lammert’s shooting ability came to light when he started games late in the year, and Ibeh was second on the team in blocks behind Ridley. If they make serious strides in all of these areas, 2014-15 may look quite a bit better than you think right now.
  4. Kansas freshman Brannen Greene was rushed to Lawrence Memorial Hospital after taking a hit to the midsection during practice. It wasn’t anything serious as Greene was taken there for precautionary reasons and released shortly thereafter. Head coach Bill Self still believes Greene will see action in tonight’s season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. What we learned from this: Self is a tough coach, his players are tough, Kansas is still predicted to win the league, and water is wet. Man they’re so good.
  5. Move over Cameron Crazies: the hottest, coolest and newest student section in college basketball is the Purple Haze at TCU. The TCU Student Basketball Committee announced the name for the student section last week and members of said student section will have opportunities regular students won’t have. Head coach Trent Johnson said “The Haze” (feel free to use the nickname, TCU) will interact and build relationships with players. A point system has also been established that would enable two “Hazers” (you can use that too) who loyally attend home and away games who accumulate the most points will win two tickets to attend the 2014 Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Sounds like a sweet gig if you can get it.
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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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Big 12 Team Previews #3: Texas Longhorns

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Texas at the #3 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 20-14, 9-9
  • Key contributors lost: J’Covan Brown
  • Head coach: Rick Barnes
  • Projected finish: 3rd

And now we play the waiting game. Coach Rick Barnes still has no idea whether star point guard Myck Kabongo will play this season after the NCAA began investigating his eligibility. The situation, which pertains to Kabongo’s relationship with an agent, could not have possibly come at a more crippling time for Texas. Already recovering from the early departure of do-it-all guard J’Covan Brown, the Longhorns cannot afford to lose Kabongo for any amount of time. They’ll need to remake themselves after relying so heavily on Brown a year ago, and their new style of offense — as well as any potential for a Big 12 title run — hinges on Kabongo’s presence. To make matters worse, this is a roster consisting almost exclusively of freshmen and sophomores, so there’s not a lot of room for error.

It’d Be a Problem if Kabongo Can’t Play

The Personnel

Along with Pierre Jackson, Kabongo is one of this league’s most dynamic playmakers at the point guard position. His world-class speed and explosion, coupled with his innate ability to dish out the basketball and makes his teammates better, is the reason his eligibility concerns are so widely publicized right now. If he plays, he’ll change the entire course of Texas’ season. As a freshman, Kabongo arrived on campus with out-of-this-world expectations, and he struggled to acclimate himself at first. His rookie season wasn’t necessarily “rocky,” but it took him all the way until March for his coach to notice a change in maturity and poise at point guard. After the Longhorns’ critical Big 12 quarterfinal victory over Iowa State all but secured an NCAA Tournament berth, Barnes singled out Kabongo as a major factor in the victory from a leadership standpoint. Apparently, it was Kabongo’s idea to put Jaylen Bond in the final minutes of the game, just so UT could switch on ball screens. “Of all the things he’s done this year,” Barnes said after the game, “I’m telling you. He’s heading in the right direction.”

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Big 12 Summer Update: Texas Longhorns

Posted by dnspewak on August 2nd, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Texas

2011-12 record: 20-14, 9-9 (6th place, Big 12)

The worst nightmare happened for Texas’ J’Covan Brown: He went undrafted in June. It’s easy to play the role of revisionist historian with regard to Brown’s decision to enter the NBA Draft and skip his final year of school in Austin. In hindsight, though, perhaps he should have stayed in school and tried his luck in 2013. In reality, Brown made the decision with his family in mind. He has a daughter to take care of, and he’ll find a way to make a lot of money playing this game somewhere. After averaging 20.1 points per game as a junior and taking almost all of the shots for the young Longhorns — sometimes earning the team a reputation as a One-Man Show — his decision to bolt for the pros this summer now leaves a major void for Rick Barnes in 2012-13. It would be silly to use the cliched “addition by subtraction” theorem in this situation because Brown was so important and frankly had a terrific junior campaign without much experience surrounding him, but there’s no doubt Barnes will have a different team without him on the court. With heralded point guard Myck Kabongo ready to take a leap in production as a sophomore after growing up considerably by the end of his freshman season, Barnes should have no trouble qualifying for yet another NCAA Tournament. Despite a close call a year ago, he’s still never missed the NCAAs during his tenure at Texas, and even though his team is maddeningly inexperienced, it should certainly make leaps with a stud recruiting class and improving group of sophomores.

Myck Kabongo is The Man On This Team

Summer Orientation: Barnes welcomes six new scholarship freshmen to his roster, headlined by one of the Big 12’s presumed top newcomers in center Cameron Ridley. Say goodbye to last year’s woes of lacking a true post presence. Ridley’s 6’10”, 245-pound frame speaks for itself. So does his game. He’s a traditional center with back-to-the-basket post moves, a rarity in this age of Kevin Durant and European-style hybrids. The Texas native’s decision to stay home changes the dynamics of Barnes’ roster, and so does fellow freshman big Prince Ibeh. He’s considered more of a project than Ridley and has a leaner body type, but he’s another true center who could become a monster if he develops his offensive game. Barnes told ESPN’s Andy Katz this summer that both Ridley and Ibeh are right on track to contribute as freshmen, but that article actually mentions another freshman as the biggest surprise of the off-season. That’s DeMarcus Holland, a 6’3” shooting guard noted by Barnes as performing like an “every day” kind of guy. That’s some of the highest praise a freshman can achieve before stepping on the court, and it’s the kind of comment that leads us to believe Holland could be a valuable reserve in his first season. Point guard Javan Felix will need to grow up quickly in order to backup Kabongo, and three-star small forward Ioannis Papapetrou finds himself in an interesting role as one of the only true wings on this roster. To round out the class, Connor Lammert will fight for minutes in a crowded frontcourt. The 6’7” power forward had a decent outing in a summer All-Star game by scoring 14 points. As is the case for every single team in America with rather large freshmen classes, the Longhorns’ Big Six will have to sort themselves out by the end of the offseason and October practice. Ibeh and Ridley are early bets to see a ton of playing time, but there’s no telling who else will emerge in their rookie campaigns. Overall, though, this appears to be a good group with a lot of potential down the road, and 2012-13 should serve as a solid foundation for this class.

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Who’s Got Next? More Eligibility Issues, Prospects Discuss Midnight Madness, Big Men Make Big Commitments

Posted by Josh Paunil on October 19th, 2011

 

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Trio of Class of 2011 Prospects Experiencing Eligibility Issues

This Is Probably How Bill Self Reacted When His Two Top Freshmen Were Ruled Ineligible.

Kansas Duo Out For 2011-12 Season, Louisville’s Blackshear In Danger. Kansas freshmen small forward Ben McLemore  and power forward Jamari Traylor were ruled ineligible by the NCAA, head coach Bill Self announced Friday. The pair of forwards were declared partial qualifiers meaning they can’t take part in any team activities until the beginning of the second semester and can’t participate in any games in the upcoming basketball season. This comes as a shocker since the Jayhawks’ coaching staff thought the duo would indubitably qualify although this isn’t the first time Kansas has had trouble with freshman qualifying. Just last month, the NCAA deemed freshman power forward Braeden Anderson a partial qualifier who can’t accept a scholarship for the 2011-12 school year. Louisville freshman shooting guard Wayne Blackshear is also undergoing eligibility issues. Although Cardinal head coach Rick Pitino remains optimistic regarding Blackshear’s chances of being cleared, this isn’t the first time a Louisville freshman faced eligibility issues either. Last month, shooting guard Kevin Ware (yes, that Kevin Ware) was ruled ineligible for the year although he could play games in the spring semester if his SAT scores increase (which he’ll be re-taking next week).

What They’re Saying [About Midnight Madness]

We’ve had a lot of coverage here at RTC on Midnight Madness from the best events to the best dunks and the best stories via Twitter, but now we get to take a look at what the best prospects in the country had to say about the celebrations to kick off the college basketball year.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.14.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 14th, 2011

  1. The league released its annual preseason coaches poll Thursday afternoon, and in its final year as a Big 12 member, Texas A&M made history. For the first and last time ever, the coaches selected the Aggies to win the conference. They earned 73 points to share the honors with Kansas, who received the most first-place votes with five. Baylor and Missouri also received first-place votes, while Oklahoma and Texas Tech finished tied for last. The poll, of course, means absolutely nothing, but it’s decent fodder for us fans as we wait a few more hours for Midnight Madness to tip off.
  2. It’s also decent fodder for coaches and players: coach Bill Self and guard Tyshawn Taylor both told ESPN.com they were “surprised” at the first-place selection. The Jayhawks’ tone during the pre season has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Self even expressed some public concerns this summer to CBS Sports about how his roster is shaping up, and he’s admitted that his team has more question marks in 2011-12 than any he’s ever coached. Still, with seven straight Big 12 titles to his name, you’ve got to think Self will figure something out with this team– especially since most of the “unproven” talent consists of former blue-chip recruits.
  3. The day we’ve been waiting for since last April is finally here — the first day of practice. Unfortunately, less than half of the Big 12 teams are holding public Midnight Madness events. If you’re wondering who is having festivities, though, take a look at this CBS Sports schedule: it appears only Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor will have public practices tonight (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will have events later this month). Kudos to A&M, though, for being the only program to truly hold a practice at midnight.
  4. Rick Barnes has sent numerous forwards to the NBA during his head coaching career, and Class of 2012 big man Prince Ibeh is hoping to become the next star in the Texas frontcourt. The 6’10” center verbally pledged to the Longhorns on Thursday, giving Barnes three forwards in this particular recruiting class. Considered one of the top recruits in the nation at his position, Ibeh checks in at #54 in the Rivals.com rankings. He’s primarily known for his shot-blocking ability, so watch out for this guy in the paint during the next four years.
  5. Finally, your obligatory realignment news: Kansas City mayor Sly James wrote a letter to Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, expressing his desire for the university to stay in the Big 12. James appears most worried about his city losing the Big 12 Tournament, and who can blame him? If MU bolts for another league, it’d be pretty difficult to keep the league tournament in a state where no team competes, despite the proximity of Kansas and Kansas State. James estimates the Big 12 tourney generates about $14 million a year for Kansas City.
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