Despite reloading with young talent, the Jayhawks lose 50 percent of their production from nearly every statistical category from a year ago. If there was ever a year for a team to de-thrown Kansas from the top of the Big 12 standings at the end of the year, this is it. Texas could be that team.
More from Big 12 News
- Big 12 basketball: Annual challenge with SEC moves to January
- Big 12 basketball: Kansas Jayhawks survive scare at TCU
- Big 12 college basketball schedule for January 26-February 1
- College basketball schedule: Big 12 game times, TV listings, live stream for January 19-25
- College basketball schedule: Big 12 game times, TV listings, live stream for January 12-18
The Longhorns only lose one player off last year’s team (Martez Walker) who left due to legal troubles, and return 94 percent of their scoring from a year ago. All five of the starters from a year ago also return: Isaiah Taylor, Cameron Ridley, Demarcus Hollard, Jonathan Holmes and Javan Felix.
Ridley (6-foot-9, 285 pounds) and Holmes (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) combine to make a strong physical presence down low and average a league best 15.4 rebounds a game combined. That number increased to 16.3 during league play. Ridley lead the league by averaging more than 3.6 offensive rebounds a game during conference play, and is the leagues returning shot block leader from a year ago, averaging 2.1 per contest.
Another Longhorn big man, Prince Ibeh (6-foot-10, 260 pounds), averaged 1.4 blocks last season, good for 4th in the league.
The Longhorns return all 5 starters from a year ago and 94% of their scoring.
Texas also signed a top 20 recruiting class according to Rivals, by convincing the second-ranked overall prospect in the nation, Myles Turner, to stay in state. Turner, a McDonald’s All-American, check sin at 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, and averaged 18.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 6.8 blocks per game as a senior.
Turner was also recently chosen as the Preseason Freshmen of the Year alongside Kansas’ Cliff Alexander. Jordan Barnett (6-foot-6, 205 pounds), a freshmen, was a top 100 recruit by Rivals who turned down offers from Michigan State, Stanford, and others.
Strengths and weaknesses
The Longhorns’ strength a year ago was on the defensive end as they led the Big 12 a season ago in percentage defense, only allowing opponents to shoot 40 percent from the field during conference play. They also led the league in rebounds, averaging 40.7 rebounds/game and were second in the league in blocked shots averaging better than 5 a game.
It’s on the offensive end where they have to continue to improve. Last season, Texas only averaged 71.8 points per game (7th in the league) and finished in the bottom third of the league in field goal percentage (42 percent) and 3-point field goal percentage (30 percent), which was last in the league.
Mar 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Texas Longhorns forward Jonathan Holmes (10) shoots as Baylor Bears forward Rico Gathers (2) defends during the first half in the semifinals of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Looking at the schedule
The non-conference schedule certainly will test the Longhorns this season as they will play the Iowa Hawkeyes and either California or Syracuse in New York during the 2K Classic. A pair of very difficult road contests will show how they stack up against the elite teams in the country early in the season.
First, they’ll take on the defending national champions, Connecticut, in Storrs, Conn., on Nov. 30th. Then, they’ll head to Lexington to face Kentucky, who was in the Final Four a year ago. A home slate against Stanford on Dec. 23rd should prepare the team nicely for conference play a week later.
Rick Barnes and his Longhorns return a lot of talent. They are big, physical bruisers inside and will pound the ball in the post, and try and beat you up on the boards. If they find 1-2 scorers and increase their offensive productivity, this team could be very dangerous.
Defense wins championships. You don’t always need a lot of points to score — ask Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin Badgers. You just need to outscore your opponent. Circle your calendars for February 28th. Texas travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to face the Jayhawks, and this could decide your conference champion.