Analzying the game through a macro lens, the Cowboys provide an interesting case study in mapping out Texas' future. Last year, Oklahoma St. finished the season a disappointing 15-18 (7-11 in the Big 12), then lost leading scorer Keiton Page (17.1 PPG) to graduation. Yet somehow, the Cowboys have already increased their win total by 7, currently sitting at a rosy 22-6.
For Texas fans still harboring dreams of landing 5* forward Julius Randle, Oklahoma St.'s freshman All-American Marcus Smart has been the difference-maker. He has led the transformation of a team that couldn't even land an NIT bid last year to a team that has conference and national championship aspirations. At all levels of basketball, having the biggest stars is imperative to achieving the highest levels of success. That's the bottom line.
Smart hasn't done it alone, however. Whether through sheer luck or shrewd coaching, Travis Ford has developed his other players into valuable contributors. The best success story is junior guard Markel Brown. He started his career as a lightly regarded 3* recruit and has turned into a collegiate terror and fringe NBA prospect. Check out his stat progression:
FR: 6.4 PPG / 2.5 RPG / .394/.262/.607
SO: 10.5 PPG / 5.1 RPG / .426/.319/.732
JR YTD: 15.7 PPG / 4.6 RPG / .446/.390/.750
More importantly, Brown has increased his efficiency despite a bump in both usage % (21.8% to 22.6%) and shot % (20.2% to 25.2%). His O-Rating this year is 111.5 (currently 371st in the nation), a huge jump from last year's 96.5. That's development, homes.
Proper development need not be exponential. Senior center Philip Jurick and sophomore forward Michael Cobbins have seen only slight upticks in their per game stats. Jurick went from 1.6 PPG / 4.9 RPG to 3.2 PPG / 6.1 RPG; Cobbins from 5.0 / 5.7 to 6.9 / 6.3. But Jurick has also increased his efficiency, with an O-Rating bump from 99.3 to 108.8. Likewise with Cobbins, who went from 96.3 to 113.2.
The results have been significantly less rosy for Texas' returning players. In trying to take the alpha dog role, Sheldon McClellan has increased his scoring output from 11.3 to 13.3 PPG. But the massive increase in usage (19.8% to 25.7%) hasn't been kind to McClellan, as his O-Rating has plummeted from 116.5 in 2012 to 102.3 this year.
Same story with Jonathan Holmes. He posted 7.1 PPG and 4.8 RPG last year; this year his averages are 6.7 PPG and 6.1 RPG. It's another case of less with more: 110.0 O-Rtg as a freshman, 94.1 as a sophomore. Jaylen Bond has done even less with minimal playing time, while Julien Lewis' numbers have held disappointingly static.
For 2013-14 Texas, the recipe for success appears simple.
First, Texas needs a star to lead the team. There's two options here. Either Kabongo returns for his junior season, or the Longhorns secure a commitment from Randle. Currently, the odds don't appear favorable on either case happening.
If fortune does favor the Longhorns, Texas still needs a stronger performance from its supporting cast next season. Whether that development comes from the sophomores mentioned or the promising freshman class, the Longhorns have to play better and more consistently. It's a Captain Obvious statement, but it's also what needs to happen.