Texas men’s basketball season could turn into something special

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Forward Kai Jones and the Texas men's basketball team have a chance to make a significant statement — and to avenge, at least slightly, a 22-point loss in last year's final game — Sunday when the Longhorns host Oklahoma State (photo courtesy of texassports.com).

AUSTIN, Texas — The last time Texas hosted Oklahoma State it wasn’t a pretty sight for the team wearing burnt orange and white.

The Longhorns walked off the floor at the Erwin Center in March having just suffered a bewildering 81-59 loss in what turned out to be their last game of the 2019-20 season.

When the Cowboys come to Austin Sunday, it should be a far different story. 

Texas is off to a 6-1 start, is ranked No. 11 in the nation and has the feel of a distinctly dissimilar program than the last few seasons.

The Longhorns could be — dare we say — something special? 

Let’s be clear: we’re not talking Final Four-special, but fighting for the No. 2 seed at the Big 12 tournament and playing into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament are goals to be aiming for after what the Longhorns have shown during the first three weeks of the season.

Veteran guards Matt Coleman, Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey are doing a brilliant job of running the offense, shooting the ball well and making plays off the dribble. Coach Shaka Smart is utilizing the size of Kai Jones and Jericho Sims like it should be, and five-star recruit Greg Brown is getting better game by game and seems to have meshed with a roster full of players who are in large part much older than he is.

Outside of Jase Febres and a getting-better-every-day Donovan Williams, Texas is the healthiest it has been in recent memory.

The Longhorns already own wins over Indiana and North Carolina, and no one in their right mind is going to be disappointed about a close loss to Jay Wright and Villanova.

In the metrics, Texas is ranked No. 7 by kenpom.com and has the fourth-best defense in the country with a top-25 offense.

Oklahoma State also has a 6-1 record entering the game, but the Cowboys only have one win of note — Marquette — and just blew a nine-point lead down the stretch in a 77-76 loss to what is generally thought of as a pretty bad TCU team.

Freshman phenom Cade Cunningham leads Oklahoma State, and this can be billed as a game between two of the top freshmen in the country with Cunningham and Brown

But in reality, if the Longhorns are who we think they are, they should handle this game.

Texas will have a chance to really prove its merit when it goes to Lawrence, Kansas Jan. 2 to face KU.

And while it may be mildly special at the moment, a win there would make Texas very special.

In a year in which Longhorn football didn’t go to anyone’s liking, Texas basketball could make January, February and March a lot of fun.

And while the goal is for that to be an annual occurrence, after what’s been going on in the world the last 12 months, that’d be special in and of itself for Longhorn fans.

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