Will the balls bounce the Longhorns' way this year?
|Date||Opponent / Event||Location||Time / Result|
|11/09/12||vs. Fresno State||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|EA SPORTS Maui Invitational Opening Game|
|11/12/12||vs. Coppin State||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|EA SPORTS Maui Invitational Championship Round|
|11/19/12||vs. Chaminade||Maui, Hawaii||8:30 pm CT|
|11/20/12||USC or Illinois (Semifinals)||Maui, Hawaii||TBA|
|11/21/12||Championship Round||Maui, Hawaii||TBA|
|11/27/12||vs. Sam Houston State||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|12/01/12||vs. UT Arlington||Austin, Texas||TBA|
|Jimmy V Classic|
|12/04/12||vs. Georgetown||New York, N.Y.||6:00 pm CT|
|MD Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase|
|12/08/12||vs. UCLA||Houston, Texas||4:15 pm CT|
|12/15/12||vs. Texas State||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|12/19/12||vs. North Carolina||Austin, Texas||8:00 pm CT|
|12/22/12||at Michigan State||East Lansing, Mich.||1:00 pm CT|
|12/29/12||vs. Rice||Austin, Texas||1:00 pm CT|
|01/05/13||at Baylor *||Waco, Texas||1:00 pm CT|
|01/09/13||vs. West Virginia *||Austin, Texas||8:00 pm CT|
|01/12/13||at Iowa State *||Ames, Iowa||1:00 pm CT|
|01/19/13||vs. Kansas *||Austin, Texas||1:00 pm CT|
|01/21/13||at Oklahoma *||Norman, Okla.||8:30 pm CT|
|01/26/13||vs. Texas Tech *||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|01/30/13||at Kansas State *||Manhattan, Kan.||8:00 pm CT|
|02/02/13||vs. TCU *||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|02/04/13||at West Virginia *||Morgantown, W.Va.||8:00 pm CT|
|02/09/13||vs. Oklahoma State *||Austin, Texas||12:45 pm CT|
|02/13/13||vs. Iowa State *||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|02/16/13||at Kansas *||Lawrence, Kan.||8:00 pm CT|
|02/19/13||at TCU *||Fort Worth, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|02/23/13||vs. Kansas State *||Austin, Texas||7:00 pm CT|
|02/27/13||vs. Oklahoma *||Austin, Texas||8:00 pm CT|
|03/02/13||at Oklahoma State *||Stillwater, Okla.||3:00 pm CT|
|03/04/13||vs. Baylor *||Austin, Texas||8:00 pm CT|
|03/09/13||at Texas Tech *||Lubbock, Texas||3:00 pm CT|
"I'm the captain. If the ship goes down, I go down with it."
"I'm sure many captains said the same thing when the ship was afloat."
The Texas Longhorns have a well-manned ship, but its compass is pointing directly at some rocky waters. It's a difficult non-conference schedule: ESPN's Jason King said Texas "might have the most challenging out-of-league slate in the country." Aside from putting together last season's bunny-soft schedule (purposely designed for a talent and experience challenged team), Rick Barnes has always scheduled aggressively and returned to form this season.
The season opener this Friday is no gimme. Fresno State, helmed by former Texas assistant coach Rodney Terry, features a solid junior backcourt of PG Tyler Johnson and SG Kevin Olekaibe. Luckily for Texas, the Bulldogs will be without a couple promising big men newcomers, Robert Upshaw (injury) and Braeden Anderson (ineligible). By the way, this is the first of nine games to be broadcast on the LHN.
A trio of home automatics--Coppin St., SHSU, and UT-Arlington--flank Texas' preseason tournament choice, the Maui Invitational. The field is down this year, and the only team ranked in the preseason Top 25 is North Carolina. Texas gets a virtual bye by drawing host school Chaminade before a second-round matchup with either USC or Illinois. If the Horns make the final, North Carolina is the favorite out of the other quartet.
Texas' pre-Christmas December is particularly brutal. The Longhorns first head to Madison Square Garden to take on Georgetown. The Hoyas, like Texas, are young but brimming with potential. They're led by sophomore forward Otto Porter, a darkhorse candidate for Player of the Year. Defense-first coaching philosophies and offensive question marks on both sides make this a likely low scoring game.
With no rest for the weary, the Longhorns head to Houston for a tilt with UCLA. Stud recruit Shabazz Muhammad remains in the same NCAA limbo as Myck Kabongo, but the Bruins will add two five-star freshmen, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker, to an already long frontcourt. Josh Smith will remind Texas fans of Dexter Pittman in terms of girth and talent, and the Wear twins don't look like much but are quietly efficient. Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, and company will have their hands full inside.
After a home date with Texas St., the Longhorns two step with North Carolina at home, followed by Michigan St. in East Lansing. It could be a rematch date with the Tar Heels if both teams make it to the Maui finals. With the dreaded Erwin Center advantage, the early line favors Texas. UNC lost four first-rounders, but bring back plenty, with James Michael McAdoo expected to lead the way.
Michigan St. is a different animal entirely. One of my picks for the Final Four, the Spartans don't have an alpha dog after the graduation of Draymond Green, but have experience galore across the board. Interior enigmas Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are both looking at "step up" years, and promising swingman Branden Dawson should be fully recovered from a torn ACL that ended his solid freshman campaign. Texas ends its non-conference schedule by facing annual patsy Rice.
"Three victories don't make you a conqueror."
"It's better than three defeats."
The Bruins and Spartans are two early Final Four contenders, and North Carolina shouldn't be overlooked, particularly if the Longhorns have to play them twice. Still, it's a doable schedule, and one that should pay dividends in conference play. Obviously Texas wants to win them all, but teaching moments, big game exposure, and the RPI boost make the non-conference slate a win-win regardless of outcome.
One possible stumbling block is the potential suspension of Kabongo. Baylor's Perry Jones III missed six games because his mother took, and repaid, $1,195 in "impermissible benefits" while Jones was in high school. Assuming Kabongo misses that number, Texas won't have his services for the Maui Invitational but would get him back for the December tilt with Georgetown.
In Maui, winning against North Carolina sans Kabongo sounds practically impossible, and both USC (Jio Fontan) and Illinois (Brandon Paul) have senior point guards that will cause Texas fits. Early losses without Kabongo would be excusable, but the precocious point guard would have to gear up quickly if he wants to lead the team into a heady December non-conference slate. Then again, maybe the NCAA comes back with good news. And soon.
We'll dive into the Big 12 teams in another post, but starting in January is where Texas really needs to butter its bread. Inexperience will no longer be an excuse come Baylor, and the Longhorns have the depth, talent, and size to attempt to conquer Big 12 basketball.
"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
Many a Longhorn are quick to point to what Barnes hasn't accomplished rather than focus on what he has. You win in the NCAAs or you don't; there is no middle ground. Part of this way of thinking stems from a football-first mindset and a bowl system that distills a brutal regular season into glorified exhibitions with lots of free swag and 30+ "A for Effort" winners.
Basketball is the opposite. Regular season wins are nice to haves, but even a 66% win rate (say, 20-11) can secure a tournament bid. Yet in March, 68 teams enter the Hunger Games; 16 teams have "successful" seasons (give or take your blue blood expectations); 1 emerges bloodied and victorious.
Kansas is the other obvious bugaboo. Despite recruiting alongside the Jayhawks, Barnes has constantly been out-coached, out-talented, and outlasted by the fightin' Bill Selfs over the entire regular seasons, never mind the huge disparity in tournament success. For football fans constantly looking up at Oklahoma, the frustration is palpable.
Finally, Rick Barnes' track record is practically Mack-iavellian in its consistency. After a surprise first place Big 12 finish in Barnes' first year, the basketball team has finished 2nd, T-2nd, T-3rd, 2nd, T-2nd, T-5th, T-1st, 3rd, T-1st, T-4th, T-6th and 2nd. Last year's 6th place finish aside, Texas has never been in the bottom half of the league.
How will Texas fare in the NCAAs this year? I have no friggin' clue.
What I do think can and should happen is a very good year. The sea change has come. We look like we have a team capably designed for tournament success, both this year and beyond. More importantly, it's a team can challenge for the Big 12 title this year, and expectations of a 2nd or 3rd place conference finish are well within reason. I mean, statgasm guru Ken Pomeroy has Texas ranked 13th!
And if all we have at the ides of March is bitter disappointment, bound in shallows and in miseries? Well then, recommence the teeth-gnashing, I guess.