Full disclosure here: Picking the #8 team in the conference was incredibly difficult. I went back and forth multiple times between two different teams before ultimately deciding that it would be the Texas Longhorns occupying this spot at the end of the year. Well, to say that I decided might be a stretch. I was so undecided actually, that I finally just asked my wife who she thought would be the 8th best team in the conference and she said Texas, so here we are.
Now, my wife is no basketball expert. She comes to quite a few games with me and offers up excellent insights occasionally, like last season when she said Longhorn point guard Javan Felix had a "midget butt", but beyond a basic knowledge of the conference landscape, she's pretty clueless. If this sounds like I'm throwing her under the bus if Texas overachieves, then that's because I absolutely will.
In any event, what a sad state of affairs the Texas basketball program has become. Ravaged by the one-and-done era and mass attrition, Rick Barnes has become the anti-John Calipari in recent years, bringing in talented freshman classes annually, yet not achieving much at all. The burnt orange faithful are beyond the point of being patient and Barnes could get caught up in a massive overhaul of the Texas athletics department that's already laid waste to former athletics director DeLoss Dodds, with Barnes and Mack Brown being mentioned as the next casualties. If Barnes is going to be manning the sideline in Austin after this year, he's going to need an inexperienced and unproven roster to massively overachieve. Unfortunately, I just don't see that happening this year.
Unofficial Team Motto For 2013-2014
Come join us at the Frank Erwin Center; now serving lame duck!
Who's Worth Knowing About
Texas lost their top four scorers from last year's team and sophomore Javan Felix is the leading returning scorer, but only chipped in 6.8 PPG a season ago. Felix is recovering from a hip procedure earlier this month, but he should be ready to go for the season's start and he'll need to be much better in year two. He showed glimpses as a freshman and did average 4.1 assists, which was good for 6th in the Big 12. Felix will be joined in the back court by Demarcus Holland. The fellow sophomore saw extended stretches last year and will be another guy that Barnes is counting on to make the leap.
On the inside, Texas is bolstered by a talented, but inconsistent quartet of post players. Jonathan Holmes is the only player on the Texas roster on scholarship that isn't a freshman or sophomore. That's not a misprint. There are no seniors on this team and Holmes is the only junior getting a free ride. Holmes didn't have quite the sophomore season that some were expecting, but he did pull down 5.6 rebounds and average 6.4 points. Pedestrian numbers sure, but at least Barnes knows Holmes can give him solid minutes. The same can't be said for Connor Lammert, Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh. All three were thrust into immediate duty as freshmen and while there were bright moments, none of the three could manage to become a regular fixture in the line up. Ridley has the most natural ability and many thought he'd be a one-and-done type, but his lack of any semblance of an offensive game limited his minutes.
As for newbies, Texas brought in four freshman guards, headlined by Rivals 4-stars Kendal Yancy-Harris and Demarcus Croaker. It's been Isaiah Taylor, a 3-star point guard out of Houston that has been getting some preseason buzz, however. Taylor has been mentioned as a guy that could see serious minutes this season.
Say Something Nice About Texas
I just can't see Barnes returning after this season, which isn't exactly the best news for the rest of the league. With the right guy breathing new life into the Longhorn program, Texas could be back to challenging for conference championships and could become an annual fixture in the Sweet 16 and beyond. Barnes accomplished some incredible things in Austin and the '02-'03 Final Four team, which featured T.J. Ford, had the special type of run that programs all over the country dream of. Still, the Barnes regime has gotten stale, but this program is a sleeping giant and that scares the hell out of everyone in the Big 12.
And Now An Uncalled For Cheap Shot
MBB: Iowa State vs. Texas (2004) (via cycloneclassics)
MBB: Iowa State vs. Texas (2000) (via cycloneclassics)
Last Season Against Iowa State
The Cyclones ass trounced Texas in Ames last January, winning 82-62 in a game where the score wasn't even that close. Texas enacted their revenge in Austin, though, as Myck Kabongo conveniently made his season debut and Ioannis Papapetrou nailed a three with 1.7 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Texas eventually prevailed in double-OT, 89-86 in what was one of a series of crushing last-second defeats that Iowa State suffered a season ago.
Why Texas Will Finish 8th
Frankly, it boils down to guard play. I think Felix and Holland will be better as sophomores, but just how much better? Also, what will Texas get from the four freshman guards? Can any of them really be counted on to knock down shots and play quality minutes? In the front court, there's definitely potential, but as I mentioned earlier, none of Texas' bigs have really been able to consistently put it all together. I'm not ruling it out, as I think this team does have some sleeper potential, but the inexperience coupled with a lame duck coach just spells out lackluster season to me.
And Now The Final Prediction
Pretty much the same as last year. With another difficult non-conference schedule, Texas will struggle to pile up wins coming into conference play and while Texas could beat up on the likes of TCU and Texas Tech, their inexperience will hurt them against the better teams in the Big 12. I see roughly a .500 record overall with no more than 6-7 wins in the league.