Welcome to the Texas Longhorns men's basketball review. This will be a 3 part series with part 1 consisting of a detailed look into the 2015-2016 season. The second part will focus on the 2016-2017 season, and the third part will address the future of the Big 12 and Texas' place in the landscape of college basketball.
The 2015-16 Texas Longhorns season ended on a half-court buzzer beater against Northern Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Texas Longhorns finished 20-13.
Overall Grade: B
Initially I was willing to give the Longhorns a B+ heading into the NCAA Tournament. While some may see it as unfair that the Longhorns dropped in grade after the first round tournament loss, the grader suggests otherwise. Too many times late in the season the Longhorns would find themselves in double-digit deficits. Sometimes they would be able to fight back (Oklahoma and Northern Iowa) while other times they would just get worked into a convincing loss (Baylor (x2), Kansas). However, many times from mid-February until the end of the season, the Texas Longhorns would play flat until something sparked them. It happened in the Oklahoma game, similarly in the Oklahoma State game, and then in the Northern Iowa game. Credit Coach Smart for finding these in-game sparks but the spark should have been there before tip off.
Player of the Year: Isaiah Taylor
There is no question that Isaiah Taylor was the key for the Longhorns in 2015-2016. Taylor improved his PPG average 2 points from last season, increasing his assists and lowering his turnovers per game as well. He made a big step forward and became a player that is more reliable with the ball.
Underrated Players: The Seniors
The Senior Class of 2016 will not be remembered for wins nor for greatness, however they will be remembered for adaptability and perseverance. I witnessed the first game of the 2012-2013 campaign at the Drum ready to cover my first Texas basketball game (against Fresno State). I couldn't have been happier.
Instead, I got a nail biter of a team that finished 11-19 that season.
That wasn't the worst part. The real crusher came 10 days later when Chaminade whipped up on Texas by 13 points. This was the beginning of the end for Rick Barnes. However, the seniors on the team did not quit.
Not a single player from the 2012 recruiting class transferred to another college basketball program. The only departure was Ioannis Papapetrou who left to play professional basketball in his native Greece. Compare that to 2011 where everyone but Jonathan Holmes left the program.
It's unfortunate that for most of the senior class, their college basketball careers ended on an impossible shot. Witnessing that event, with only 1 or 2 of them realistically having any shot at the NBA, I couldn't help but think back to my first night at the Erwin Center. It's been a long time since 2012 and Texas basketball has changed tremendously over the course of the last four years. They weren't the greatest class of seniors, but they stuck it out and played with heart the entire time. That's something that won't go in the record books, but hopefully keeps them in the good graces of Longhorns fans.
Good Luck to Demarcus Holland, Javan Felix, Connor Lammert, Prince Ibeh, and Big Cam Ridley. College basketball misses players like you. Thank you.
Tevin Mack is the first player that Shaka Smart recruited and signed in his tenure as head coach at the University of Texas. Mack was supposed to be the type of player Texas fans thought would help move the program forward, but his first year left many scratching their heads. He was not afraid to take the 3 point shot, which is a good thing to have on a team ranked near the bottom in the NCAA in 3 point field goals. However, he made only around 30% of his 3 point shots. Some games, like those against UT-San Antonio and at Iowa State, he contributed immensely. In numerous games he would go cold and have nothing to offer. It's difficult to fault a freshman for being overrated but Mack was the one recruit Shaka Smart actually wanted, and being 3rd best of the Fab 3 was disappointing. With Connor Lammert leaving, Tevin Mack would be the only small forward on the roster.
Hopefully it gets better, but the first year was more flash than substance.
- Apr 01 2016 01:13 PM
- by Chris Flanagan
The University of North Carolina presents the Texas Longhorns with their toughest challenge of the basketball season so far.
Texas is 5-3 overall but holds an undefeated record at home, 4-0. Playing overseas did not fare well with the Longhorns this year. Texas lost to Washington in China and two out of its three games in the Bahamas. Since returning, Texas is 3-0. The Longhorns defeated their last opponent, UTSA, 116-50, the eighth-largest margin of victory in school history.
UNC travels to Austin for the Saturday game ranked third, riding a four-game win streak. The Tar Heels recently beat then-No. 2 Maryland at home, 89-81 on Dec. 1. UNC was ranked No. 9 before the matchup against the Terrapins. The Tar Heels started the season No. 1 but lost to Northern Iowa in their fourth game of the season. The Tar Heels hold a 7-1 overall record.
Texas players and coaches know beating UNT presents a tough task.
“It’s certainly not going to be easy, but I think for our guys they’re excited to come out and play and see what we can do,” head coach Shaka Smart said after the UTSA game Tuesday night.
The players on this Texas team have never lost to UNC. The last time these two schools faced each other was the 2013-14 season in Chapel Hill, and Texas left North Carolina with an 86-83 victory. The only 2015-16 Tar Heel to have beaten Texas is junior guard Stilman White, who did so in the 2011-12 season as a freshman before he left on a two-year Mormon Mission.
Texas is 6-3 all-time against UNC, having won the last two meetings and six of the last seven. UNC head coach Roy Williams is 1-4 against Texas while coaching at UNC, but he is 7-5 overall, including his stint at Kansas.
The Longhorns will need to find a way to stop the Tar Heel’s senior guard Marcus Paige in order to keep their win streak alive. Paige returned to action on Dec. 1 against Maryland after watching the first six games of the season on the bench due to a broken bone in his right hand. Paige scored 20 points in his debut and received Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Player of the Week honors. Paige started the year as preseason Atlantic Cost Conference co-player of the year.
Texas is also coming off a high of its own. The Longhorns shot 65 percent against UTSA. Five players finished the game with double-figures in scoring. Senior center Cameron Ridley led the way with 19 points, and freshman guard Tevin Mack scored a career-high 17 points. The Longhorns need that confidence and rhythm to carry over to Saturday. In the Tar Heels’ eight games of the season, they shot 50 percent or better in five of them. Tip off is set for 4:15 CT on ESPN.
- Dec 11 2015 08:59 AM
- by Taylor Smith
Boy is it good to have this Texas team back in the United States. Now that the Longhorns' lengthy away game streak is over, and games are actually televised on a real TV station, I was able to tune and get a glimpse of this squad.
Texas took on a very good UT-Arlington team. Prior to the game against the Longhorns, the Mavericks knocked off Ohio State in Columbus and Memphis in Tennessee. Scott Cross' team deserves credit and congratulations for the way they play basketball - fundamental and very strong as a team.
Now on to Texas.
I liked Shaka Smart's game plan. Texas pushed the tempo early and the threes falling early were huge, no doubt. Texas has had some trouble hitting threes recently so to see success from the arch against the Mavs is encouraging. However sometimes when pushing, this Texas team has a problem playing with control. It manifested itself in the form of bad shots and turnovers. Demarcus Holland dribbling the ball off his foot sticks out to me.
Texas got Cam Ridley involved early and often, something they need to do in every game. Ridley's post-game has improved substantially this year. One example that comes to mind in the UT-A game was Ridley being able to bury his man deep in the post and being fed the ball while the entire front court of UTA’s zone collapsed on him. He kept the ball high for an easy score. When a big man like Ridley attacks the zone in the post, you have a great way to force them out of it, or kick it out for an easy three.
During the course of the game the Longhorns had a tendency to get lazy while attacking UTA’s zone. They need to pass the ball more and whip it in and around the perimeter. This will facilitate the zone shifting and cause driving lanes, open threes or opportunities to feed the big men.
In the second half Isaiah did a much better job of dribbling penetrating the zone. He scored all of his points in the second half and overtime.
In overtime the Longhorns passed the ball with extreme efficiency. Texas finally was able to wear out the Maverick team. Back to back drives resulting in three-pointers put this game out of reach for UT-Arlington and Texas improved to 11-0 against the Mavericks all time.
Texas is making progress and has a lot of talent but there is still a lot of work to be done with this team.
- Dec 03 2015 09:49 AM
- by Jon Nemec
The commitment of 4-star prospect James Banks is an important one for new University of Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart. Pulling a nationally rated top-5 center from out-of-state is no easy task, but Smart was able to sell his philosophy and the Texas program to the highly coveted Banks. With the lack of future depth at the position, the commitment, which came on Thursday, was timely.
At six-feet ten inches Banks has great size for a college center prospect and also possesses a great ability to move.
When you see him on film, you will notice that he runs the floor exceptionally well for a big man. He’s what I call a rim-runner, which means in transition or a fast break he runs right down the middle of the floor to the rim. This is exactly what you want from your big man because it allows him to get deep in the post or call for the lob pass. Also when trailing on the fast break he can come in for a put back tip-slam, which Banks is extremely efficient at doing. As a big man that can run the floor and score, he fits perfectly into Shaka Smart’s high-tempo system. An area in which Banks can improve is in the refinement of his general basketball skills. He has a limited set of post moves right now, and most of them are a one-step or drop-step to the goal for a slam or baby hook. He also showcases an up-and-under move for a slam which is understandable since he’s bigger than most people he plays against right now. His jump shot from twelve to fifteen feet has a nice and smooth stroke and is highly accurate.
Coaches want players that play low to own the paint. Banks has the presence and potential to do just that. He’s a great shot blocker and rebounder, which is the most important part to owning the paint on both sides - especially the rebounding aspect of it. Keep in mind most of his film is from his sophomore or junior years, so it will be interesting to see how much he progresses during his senior year. The capacity and skill-set for being a dynamic playmaker on offense exists in his game, and Banks could turn out to be a great foundation piece for Shaka Smart's first full recruiting class.
- Oct 08 2015 02:39 PM
- by Jon Nemec
It's official, the Texas Basketball schedule has been set. The Texas Longhorns basketball team will open against the North Dakota State Bisons on Friday, November 14th. Here is our breakdown of the schedule.
Once again, Rick Barnes wants to challenge his team in the non-conference schedule. They are guaranteed to face Iowa, UConn, Kentucky, and Stanford in November and December. The Longhorns might face Syracuse if they both win or lose their games in the 2K Classic semifinal matchup. They have their powder puff opponents to pad their win total before Big 12 play but they will be challenged in the non-conference.
Big 12 conference play:
The Longhorns will start Big 12 play on the road in Lubbock against an improving Texas Tech basketball team. Then turn around and play Oklahoma on Big Monday at home. Then Oklahoma State on the road. That's a tough 3 game stretch to start Big 12 play. The rest of the schedule is a minefield to navigate. They have another rough 3 game stretch with Kansas at home on a Saturday, at Iowa State on Monday and at Baylor on Saturday. There isn't going to be a lot of easy games for the Longhorns in Big 12 play so depth is going to be key.
The Longhorns are going to need depth for the season. Not just depth in terms of players being able to fill spots on the floor for 3-5 minutes but for consistent playmakers that come off the bench and be just as good as the starters. The level of play should not diminish at all when the Longhorns make a substitution. If they can do that, they should be in the 2-4 seed range. If not, they could end up being a 6-10 seed depending on the momentum heading into March Madness. This is a crucial season for Texas basketball to get back at an elite level and show that they are a force in college basketball.
- Sep 29 2014 10:23 AM
- by Chris Flanagan
With a dramatic buzzer beater, Texas defeated Arizona State on Thursday night. In doing so, the Longhorns advance to the (cough, cough) 3rd round to play the Michigan Wolverines (26-8, 15-3).
Saturday’s game will be the third time that Texas and Michigan have played in the NCAA tournament. The last time the two teams faced each other was in 1996. The Horns won that game, 80-76 and notably it was played in Milwaukee, WI – the same site as Saturday’s tilt.
The Longhorns’ connections to this game don’t end there…freshman Martez Walker is from Detroit (Pershing High School). Walker has scored in double figures in 3 of the last 4 games and will look to extend that streak against Michigan. The Detroit native had a career-best 16 points against ASU. He also had a career high of 9 made free throws (10 attempts) on Thursday night.
The Longhorns also have experience against Michigan’s coach, John Beilein. Texas played a Beilein-coached West Virginia squad in 2005, eking out a 76-75 win.
The Wolverines enter the contest after beating the Wofford Terriers, 57-40. Michigan shot just 3-18 in the first half but was able to rely on their athleticism to hold a defensive advantage throughout the game. Normally, the Wolverines are an extremely efficient offense, so a look at Thursday’s offensive numbers would lead most to think that Wofford had a chance. However, the Terriers were a miserable 1-19 from three-point range courtesy of Michigan’s defense.
This year, Michigan won it’s first outright Big Ten title in 28 seasons despite playing most of the season without Mitch McGary (Preseason Wooden & Naismith lists). In his seventh year as the maize and blue’s coach, Beilein led Michigan back to the NCAA tournament after an 11-year drought in 2009. The Wolverines have now played in 4 consecutive NCAA championships, and advanced to the championship game last year.
Saturday’s game between Texas and Michigan will be a contrast in styles. Texas prides itself on team defense and rebounding, while Michigan led the Big 10 in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage. Uncharacteristically, both teams advanced to this game via styles that defy that statement – Texas used a balanced offense (6 players in double figures was a season high) and Michigan limited Wofford to 40 points and 34% from the field.
- The Wolverines commit more than 14 fouls/game. The highest rate in the country.
- Texas is now 7-1 in games decided by 3 points or fewer.
- Michigan is a strong 2nd half team. The Wolverines have six wins after trailing at halftime.
- Under Barnes, the Horns win 90% of their games when they hold opponents under 40% from the floor. Michigan’s fgp this season is 47.6%.
- Michigan has 14.2 assists/game and a +1.5 turnover margin, but a rebounding margin of only +0.9/game. Conversely, Texas owns a +6.9 rebounds/game margin, but has a -0.8 turnover margin.
Any time two teams have such disparate styles of play, it is difficult to predict the game with any certainty. Michigan is an excellent team and some of their strengths matchup well against what have proved to be weaknesses in Texas losses. However, the Wolverines rely on a lot of jump shots and in a single elimination tournament, that can be problematic. To pull off the upset, the Horns must play well defensively. Whether it’s contesting jump shots or being physical off the ball, Texas cannot afford to let Michigan get too comfortable on offense.
Shooting nearly 60% in the first half against ASU, Texas had one of it’s best efforts of the season. But, however tempting, to try and match Michigan offensively would be a mistake. Instead, if the Horns can balance their scoring and consistently make the extra pass to develop rhythm on the offensive end, they slow the game down and limit Michigan’s possessions.
Can Texas beat Michigan? Absolutely. Will Texas beat Michigan? Not likely, but they call it March Madness for a reason.
- Mar 25 2014 08:51 AM
- by bbdude
If you’re a college basketball fan, there’s nothing better than the first four days of March Madness – the brackets; the upsets; the buzzer beaters. There isn’t anything in sports that consistently matches the all-encompassing magic of the first few days of college basketball’s championship tournament. Even the Super Bowl struggles to claim superiority over March Madness…Super Bowls Squares versus Brackets?
For Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns, those first four days haven’t been a Cinderella story recently. In fact, missing the 2013 tournament coupled with an ugly first round loss in the College Basketball Invitational, had many fans convinced that changes were needed in the program.
Then the 2014 season started. Texas exceeded fan expectations with a youthful roster. Hope was rekindled.
That hope has largely been dashed. Since February 1st, the Horns are 7-6, going 2-6 in road/neutral site games.
But this is March. Starting today, there are 64 teams that have an opportunity to reel off six wins and be crowned national champion. Just like everyone else, the Longhorns are starting with a proverbial clean slate. Whether they find the groove that carried them through January or are dogged by their late-season swoon is up to them.
Texas faces an Arizona State team that had it’s own share of struggles throughout the second half of PAC 12 play. ASU finished their season with three straight losses and lost 5 of their last 7 games.
The teams’ connections don’t end with their February struggles. The Sun Devils’ Head Coach, Herb Sendek, was a graduate assistant on Barnes’ staff at Providence. The two also coached against each other in the ACC while Barnes was at Clemson and Sendek was running NCSU’s program. Beyond these connections, Sendek suffers from many of the same criticisms as Barnes – poor tournament performances and a lacking offense.
The reality is that after these teams square off in Milwaukee tonight at the Bradley Center, one of the fan bases is going to be saying, “Told you so“, while the other repeats the March Madness battle cry, “Survive and Advance!”
Key metrics for tonight:
- Texas is 5-4 against Top 25 competition while ASU is 2-2. 9 of the Horns’ 10 losses were against teams that eventually made the field of 64.
- The Longhorns score just over 74 ppg; the Sun Devils score 75 ppg. Texas allows 70 ppg; the ASU defense averages 69 ppg.
- Texas is 10-3 this season in games decided by fewer than 7 points.
- Arizona State is 5-0 this year when getting at least five days before a game.
- The contrasts between Texas wins and losses is stark. In 23 wins, teams were limited to 64.9 ppg, 37% fgp, and Texas owned almost a 10 rpg margin. In 10 losses, the Horns allowed 81.9 ppg, 46.5% fgp and Texas held only a 1.8 rpg advantage.
Rick Barnes has been quoted about concerns over defending ASU’s point guard, Jahii Carson. Expect Carson to get his points. The key to this game is to make sure that Carson’s scoring doesn’t grease the skids for the entire ASU offense. Regardless of Carson’s performance, Texas needs to maintain control of the paint and defend the other 4 positions very well. Where the Longhorns have struggled late in the season is when they over-compensate for one player and end up suffering a total defensive breakdown as a result.
Expect this game to remain close deep into the second half.
- Mar 25 2014 08:53 AM
- by bbdude