Record: 20-12 (11-7 Big 12)
Head Coach: Shaka Smart (1st season)
Season Recap: Playing one of the nation's toughest schedules as rated by RPI, the Longhorns had a solid season in Shaka Smart’s first year at the helm, despite playing the majority of the season without senior center Cameron Ridley. Texas proved that it is capable of beating any team in the country, pulling off six wins against ranked opponents, including upsets against North Carolina and Oklahoma. In Ridley’s absence, point guard Isaiah Taylor stepped up for the squad, leading the team in minutes, scoring, and assists per game.
The Longhorns are not particularly great at scoring or defending—ranking 217th and 84th in the nation in those categories, respectively. But the entire look of the team will be different heading into the tournament with the return of Ridley, who played in his first game since breaking his foot in December in Texas’ loss to Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. The 6-foot-10 senior will give the Longhorns another low-post option and will shore up their defense and negative rebounding margin.
How they make a run: Under the March Madness wizardry of Smart and his high-pressure brand of defense, the team rallies around the return of Ridley and its offensive production improves enough to make a deep run.
How they falter: Ridley's return to the lineup disrupts team chemistry, and the few days before the start of the tournament are not enough to get his teammates acclimated to having him back on the floor.