Editor’s note: This is the third in an ongoing series of articles previewing the 2013-14 Big 12 men’s basketball season and examining each of the 10 conference teams.
No team has fallen faster or farther among the Big 12 basketball rank and file than the Texas Longhorns. The past two seasons, Texas has put together a combined record of 36-32 overall and 16-20 in the conference. That is a pretty big drop from a team that went 28-8 and 13-3 in the Big 12 in 2010-11 and finished the year ranked 16th in the final USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
The Longhorns finished 16-18 overall in 2012-13 and were just 7-11 against Big 12 opponents, the worst season in coach Rick Barnes’ 15 seasons as head coach at Texas. Prospects don’t look much better for this season, as the Longhorns have lost their top three scorers from last year’s team. In addition, the Texas coaching staff has not been as successful bringing in top talent off of the recruiting trail as it has been in seasons past. Only one player out of six who entered the Longhorn program as freshmen in 2011-12 is still with the team (6-7 forward Jonathan Holmes).
The 2013-14 Texas roster includes one junior (Holmes), seven sophomores, mostly front-court players, and four freshmen, all guards.
No. 8 Texas Longhorns
As with many of the Big 12 schools this season, Texas comes into the 2013-14 season without the bulk of its offense from a year ago. The team’s top three scorers (Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan and Julian Lewis) left for the NBA. The problem in Austin this season is there is little experience and proven talent to backstop all of the talent that has left the program the last several years. “I think the players that have returned have all improved a great deal,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes, who is entering his 16th season in Austin.
“We’re expecting a lot from (sophomore center) Cameron Ridley and (forward) Jonathan Holmes , and Javon (Felix) proved a year ago he’s capable of putting up numbers,” Barnes said. “We’re really excited about our younger guys because of the way they really embrace the work ethic that’s been laid there for them from the older guys.”
Like in its football program, the Longhorns generally have pulled in some of the country’s best recruiting classes, but the potential has not necessarily panned out or stayed long enough to live up the the advance hype. For example, Ridley, a highly touted five-star recruit in 2012, started 19 games for the Horns last season, but averaged just 16 minutes a game and only 4.1 points.
To further compound the problem at Texas, a second-year player, Ioannis Papapetrou, is the Longhorns’ leading returning scorer, with an 8.3 average. Papapetrou, who is 6-8, also was the Longhorns’ most accurate three-point shooter, making 36 percent of his shot attempts from beyond the arc.
This could be another long season for Texas and perhaps the last year for coach Barnes, who ironically was hired the same year as head football coach Mack Brown, whose 16-year reign at Texas also could be in danger.
“I’m impressed how these guys have come together as a group,” Barnes told Lindy’s 2013-14 College Basketball Preview magazine. “That’s what we’ve been looking for, and that’s what we’ve needed.”
The Longhorns need something good to happen, and even that won’t be good enough this season.
Texas gets the season started on Friday, at home in Austin, against visiting Mercer.
Next up: West Virginia