The Texas Longhorns are one of two Big 12 programs facing a coaching change this season. After long-time Head Coach Rick Barnes was fired in late March, then-Athletic Director Steven Patterson (who has since been fired as well) brought in former VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart to lead the ‘Horns. Smart brings an impressive resume to Austin, having complied a 163-56 record in six seasons at Virginia Commonwealth, leading the team to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the Final Four in 2011. With infinitely more resources at his disposal at Texas, Smart could have the Longhorns back to being a national title contender sooner rather than later.
Game 15 & 20: Texas Longhorns
Date: Saturday, January 9
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena - Fort Worth, TX
Date: Tuesday, January 26
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Frank Erwin Center - Austin, TX
TV: Longhorn Network
Know the Foe
2014-2015 Record: 20-14 (8-10, 6th)
Postseason: NCAA Second Round
Key Losses: F Jonathan Holmes, F Myles Turner
Key Returners: G Isaiah Taylor, G Javan Felix, C Cameron Ridley
New Additions: G Eric Davis, G Kerwin Roach, F Tevin Mack
What did Shaka Smart accomplish during his first few months on the 40 Acres, you ask? He only managed to pull in a top 15 recruiting class with not one, not two, but three four-star recruits all ranked in the ESPN Top 100. Eric Davis is a 6'3" guard out of Saginaw, Michigan, ranked as the 46th best player in the country by ESPN. Smart lured Davis to Texas despite offers from Kentucky, Michigan, UCLA, and others. After a prolific high school career, Davis was invited to the Jordan Brand Classic Game with 24 of his fellow top recruits. Joining Davis is fellow four-star guard Kerwin Roach out of North Shore High School in Houston. Roach ranked 47th on ESPN's Top 100 list, just one spot behind Davis. He was also listed as the 6th best recruit at any position in the State of Texas. Smart was also able to bring Tevin Mack to Austin after heavily recruiting the forward while he was coaching at VCU. Mack came in on ESPN's Top 100 just one spot behind Roach, meaning Smart pulled in the 46th, 47th, and 48th best players in the country. Mack is a 6'7" forward out of Columbia, South Carolina. Each of these recruits figure to play heavily into the success of Texas basketball in the years to come.
In addition to pulling in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, Texas also returns a bulk of their production from an NCAA Tournament team a year ago. While double-digit scorers Jonathan Holmes and Myles Turner are off to bigger and better things, leading scorer Isaiah Taylor returns, along with Javan Felix and Cameron Ridley. Taylor was arguably the best offensive weapon the Longhorns had a year ago, averaging 13.1 points and 4.6 assists per game. Felix and Ridley were both major pieces of the foundation that helped lead Texas to 20 wins. Felix averaged 8.7 points per game despite only playing 23.3 minutes per game. It would be surprising not to see an increase in production this season as his playing time likely increases. On the defensive end, Ridley stole the show for much of the season. He led the team with 1.8 blocks while grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game. His scoring wasn't bad either as he chipped in another 8.0 points each night.
The Longhorns return eight other players with experience at the Division I level. Like many other teams in the Big 12, Texas will feature a nice blend of young talent and experienced role players off the bench. It has yet to be seen whether or not Smart can put everything together successfully, but with his track record and the talent that Texas has at their disposal, the Longhorns could be a force to be reckoned with in Big 12 play.
Last Time Around
01/19/15: Texas 66 at TCU 48
TCU was simply overmatched by the Longhorns, while bad habits continue to plague this improved team.
02/11/15: Texas 66 vs. TCU 43
The Horns showed that the Frogs are still a long way from beating a top tier Big 12 team on the road, stuffing the Frogs in the first half and coasting in the second.
Texas 76, TCU 68
Since joining the Big 12, TCU has especially struggled with two of their in-state rivals: Texas and Baylor. The Frogs are 0-7 against Texas since joining the league, with an average margin of defeat of almost 14 points per game. In fact, TCU hasn't defeated Texas since the final season of Southwest Conference play in 1995. A lot would have to go right for the Frogs to snap their 11-game losing streak against the Longhorns. Perhaps most notably, the TCU defense would have to limit Texas' scoring ability. With their high-scoring weapons, the Longhorns will be able to put points on the board in bunches this season. It will be up to the Frog defense to keep Texas in check if TCU is to keep things close in this one.
Texas 82, TCU 68
TCU's road woes in the Big 12 are no secret, and the Frogs haven't won in Austin since 1987. Simply put, the Longhorns will have the ability to exploit some mismatches in this series. It would take significant performances for TCU on both ends of the court to come away with their first win in Austin since the Reagan Administration.
Opponent Team Previews:
Game 1: Southeastern Louisiana
Game 2: Houston Baptist
Game 3: South Dakota State
Game 4: Rhode Island
Game 5: Maryland /Illinois State
Game 6: SMU
Game 7: Colgate
Game 8: Washington
Game 9: Prairie View A&M
Game 10: Abilene Christian
Game 11: Bradley
Game 12: Delaware State
Games 13 & 24: Oklahoma State
Games 14 & 25: West Virginia
Games 15 & 20: Texas
Games 16 & 29: Baylor (10/30)
Games 17 & 23: Kansas (10/31)
Games 18 & 28: Texas Tech (11/1)
Games 19 & 27: Iowa State (11/2)
Game 21: Tennessee (11/3)
Games 22 & 31: Oklahoma (11/4)
Games 26 & 30: Kansas State (11/5)