Texas Longhorns: 19-14, 8-10 in Big 12
Head coach: Shaka Smart (3rd season)
Players to Watch: Dylan Osetkowski (13.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG); Mohamed Bamba (12.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.7 BPG); Kerwin Roach II (11.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG)
Season recap: It has been a frustrating season defined by maddeningly inconsistent play for Shaka Smart’s Longhorns. Texas played an extremely difficult schedule and managed to come away with some impressive wins against Texas Tech, Alabama, TCU and West Virginia. But for every solid victory, there were multiple missed opportunities. Texas showed all season that it can box with the best teams in the country, but overtime losses against Duke, Gonzaga and Texas Tech had Longhorn fans yelling at their TV.
But everything changed Jan. 10 when sophomore guard Andrew Jones was diagnosed with leukemia. Jones was the best shooter on the team by a country mile, and losing him was a severe blow for an already struggling offense. Whether it’s in the interior, beyond the arc, or at the line, Texas is below average at creating points.
Texas has been outscored by opponents in conference play, but has managed to stay competitive because of its defense. Mohamed Bamba is second in the country in blocks per game, and Kerwin Roach II has shown the ability to lock down perimeter studs like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. The Longhorns have shown the ability to compete with the best teams in the country, and they probably should have beaten Duke in November. But with a lackluster offense, their upside seems limited.
How they make a run: Texas needs to shut down the opposing offense in order to have a chance. If the Longhorns can take their defense to the next level, they can keep games close and scrape out a few wins.
How they falter: It’s simple. If the Longhorns play the kind of subpar offense we have seen all season, they can’t go far, no matter how dominant Bamba is on the defensive end.