It’s time for Texas basketball to live up to its potential.
In what may be a make-or-break year for Shaka Smart — depending on Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte’s appetite for a roughly $7.3 million buyout if the Longhorns turn in a disappointing season — the pieces could be there to do so.
We say “could” because the Longhorns return everyone from a year ago and added five-star recruit Greg Brown in the offseason.
But is returning everyone from a team that went 19-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12 a good thing?
Theoretically, it should be as all the players are a year older and better.
However, it brings to mind the line of thinking, “If you return mediocre players from a mediocre team, you’re going to be mediocre.”
The last time we saw Texas on the flor...(cont. on Page 2)
The last time we saw Texas on the floor it was getting drilled by Oklahoma State at the Frank Erwin Center in a bewildering performance.
Firmly on the bubble and with Smart’s job status in a precocious position, the Longhorns no-showed in the final game of the regular season and got hammered by a team whose best-case scenario was making the NIT.
Granted, Texas had entered the game on a five-game winning streak that included impressive wins over West Virginia and Texas Tech that undoubtedly saved Smart’s job. But the final win of that streak was a game that — let’s be honest — Oklahoma handed Texas.
Texas was underwhelming last season.
It’s been underwhelming during Smart’s entire five-year tenure.
Smart has reached the NCAA tournament twice and lost in the first round both times to mid-majors (Northern Iowa, Nevada). His best year came his first season in 2015-16 when he went 20-13 overall and 11-7 in the Big 12, finishing fourth in the conference.
Two years later, Texas snuck into the tournament with a 19-15 record and a below-.500 conference record.
A year later, the Longhorns won the NIT. Frankly, playing in that competition is more embarrassing for an athletic department like Texas than winning it was an accomplishment.
Overall, during Smart's time at Texas the program is 90-78 with a ghastly 40-50 mark in the Big 12.
One wonders what would have happened with Smart had Texas lost to Texas Tech in the first round of the Big 12 tournament last year, but the sports world shut down and now here we are entering the 2020-21 season.
If Brown gels with all the upperclassmen on the roster, Texas should be an NCAA tournament team.
If Brown doesn’t gel with all the returning talent … (shudders).
Picked fourth in the Big 12 coaches' preseason poll, Texas could be a team that easily makes the field of 68 in the range of a 4-8 seed.
Jericho Sims, when healthy, is a legitimate force in the paint. Kai Jones and Kamaka Hepa are decent options in the post with experience.
I'm still puzzed: why didn't 6-foot...(cont. on Page 3)
I’m still puzzed: why didn't 6-foot-11 Will Baker, a player who can shoot from beyond the arc, handle the ball and has post moves, receive more playing time last year?
Matt Coleman III, Andrew Jones, Jase Febres and Courtney Ramey are all competent guards who have their moments.
Adding a potential lottery talent like the 6-9 Brown to a veteran roster such as this in a season where teams with returning players will be at an advantage should benefit Texas.
Throw in the fact that the bottom half of the Big 12 — specifically TCU, Iowa State and Kansas State — looks pretty bad, and there’s really no excuse for Texas not to go 11-7 in conference play.
Whether Texas can take advantage of the situation, only time will tell.
Smart’s offenses have been unimaginative and at times downright painful to watch. That needs to change.
This is the time for Smart and Texas basketball to overwhelm. Otherwise he may not get another chance.
(Photos courtesy of University of Texas Athletics)