The Texas Longhorns basketball program is coming off of a relatively disappointing season. Shaka Smart’s crew finished 19-15 with a conference record of 8-10, landing them sixth in the Big 12.
However, there were circumstances that attributed to this season performance that was far out of their control. In December, star guard Andrew Jones was diagnosed with Leukemia– changing not only the team makeup but the life of a young budding guard.
Being the warrior that he is, though, Andrew Jones fought back relentlessly. His status is still uncertain as they head into next season, but all signs point to him being strongly on the path for a healthy recovery. Jones has been seen playing pick-up basketball and even dunking in such games. We wish him all the best, and we cannot wait to see him back on the court.
- Matt Coleman- PG
- Kerwin Roach II- Wing
- Dylan Osetkowski- Big
The Longhorns return three of its four leading scorers from last season- who you can see above. Matt Coleman, despite some freshman lapses, proved mightily valuable to the burnt orange last season. Uber-athletic wing Kerwin Roach provides senior leadership and pesty, versatile defense. Osetkowski, the team’s leading scorer, is another senior that will be relied upon to produce in the biggest moments. Andrew Jones is an easy addition to this list, pending his status- he is technically the leading scorer for the Longhorns- and shot a whopping 46% from deep in his 10 games played.
- Mo Bamba
- Eric Davis
Texas loses just one regular starter and another key role player. The absence of Bamba will be felt on the interior as a rim protector as well as on the boards. Davis, the resident floor-spacer in Austin, will be missed in that capacity. Smart’s teams have consistently been inept from beyond the arc- so losing a relatively reliable shooter will surely hurt.
- Courtney Ramey
- Kamaka Hepa
- Gerald Liddell
- Elijah Mitrou-Long
- Jaxson Hayes
Shaka Smart reeled in yet another stellar recruiting class last year. Ranking 8th in the country via 247sports, four of the five signees are considered 4-star players, including three in the top 60. Ramey and Liddell project to be immediate impact freshmen with considerable minutes. Mitrou-Long is a now-eligible transfer from Mount St. Marys who averaged 15 points per game and shot a valuable 38% from deep in his most recent season. Hepa, a prototypical stretch-4, and Hayes, a lanky center, will serve more limited roles while each providing impact due to their specific skill-sets.
Projected Starting Five
- Matt Coleman
- Courtney Ramey
- Kerwin Roach II
- Dylan Osetkowski
- Jericho Sims
Heading into his fourth year at the helm in Austin, Shaka Smart has had no shortage of raw talent. Consistently reeling in high-level recruits, the issue has been making it all fit together. The Longhorns have typically looked stout defensively, but lack dynamic offensive playmakers and have sorely needed reliable 3-point shooting.
The Longhorns ranked in the 85th percentile in points per possession defense last year- good for top 15 in the power conferences. Smart, known for his ‘Havoc’ defense more at VCU, has certainly been able to bring quality press defense to Austin. While they did not press a whole lot, Texas finished in the 97th percentile for press defense PPP. Returning athletic defenders such as Matt Coleman and Kerwin Roach while bringing in such players in Courtney Ramey and Gerald Liddell will surely be vital in keeping such brutally intense defense at a high quality.
Looking at the Longhorns’ schedule it is clear to see that Shaka Smart was keen to challenge his team. Apart from the usual Big 12 conference slate of playing each team twice, Texas sees a rigorous non-conference schedule to begin the season. This schedule includes match-ups against Arkansas, North Carolina, and either UCLA or Michigan State on neutral sites. Additionally, they’ll welcome VCU, Purdue, and Providence to Austin for key fixtures during December. Smart’s squad will also travel to Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs in January for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Record Prediction: 20-11 (10-8)
The Big 12, as a conference, was unusually good last season and it is reasonable to believe that they take a step back this upcoming season. With schools such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all losing a considerable amount of quality it is the prime season for Texas to make their jump to the top tier.
Look for the Longhorns to be safely in the NCAA Tournament and competing at the top of Big 12. While a conference title is highly unlikely, the Longhorns have the experience and talent to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. A second-weekend appearance (at least) will be the goal for the Texas Longhorns.