The match that lit the dumpster fire that was the 2012 Texas Longhorns basketball season was thrown from the backcourt. Actually, I have that wrong because it should be plural instead of singular. Let me list the matches:
1) Myck Kabongo's forbidden lambada with the NCAA rules. While I think his sentence was overly harsh - Jay Bilas was all over this for the better part of a year - he made his own bed. Losing your best player is bad enough, but it's doubly so when he's also the guy that runs the offense. You end up getting a guy like Javan Felix having to put in 30+ minutes/game (when he was clearly not ready) and grinding what's already a problematic offense to a halt.
2) 'Two Scorpions in a Fish Bowl' aka Rick Barnes & Sheldon McClellan. I know I said I was going to leave it in the frontcourt piece, but it was 1a to Myck in the reasons why this team was terrible. Both of them are to blame, but the loser in the situation was anyone that liked watching proficient basketball. I'm also of the opinion that Sheldon checked out midway through the season and was actively involved in telling top recruits(Julius Randle, specifically) to go elsewhere. Plus, I think he's the reason the next guy I mention decided to transfer. It was definitely time for Sheldon to move on.
3) Julien Lewis was the 3-point-shooting equivalent of Leonard from 'Memento'; it's almost as if every time he got the ball behind the arc, he forgot that he clanked the last 4. Juice never thought twice about shooting; the problem is that he's not a great shooter. You're only allowed to fire off a heat check if you're actually hot. If you could've taken Juice's mentality & transplanted it into Sheldon, this team probably wins 4 more games last year. Well, assuming Barnes let him see the floor(*grumble*). Julien had some good aspects to his game, but his 3-point shooting was a classic 'no no no no YES' encounter for me most games.
4) J'Covan Brown. Texas missed him this year. Oh God, did they miss his enormous clutch-time balls. I would've even lived with the atrocious end-of-half plays Barnes drew up for him just to have him in Hawaii. Or West Virginia. Or Houston....*sigh*
I could probably list more here, but you get the idea. This group was a disaster last year, and will still have a ton of questions going into this year as well.
Javan Felix: 10 PPG, 3 RPG, 5 APG, 2.5 TOs, 1.2 SPG, 32 MPG
I don't really think you can give Javan enough credit for getting tossed into the fire last season and making the best of it. He should've spent last season getting 6-10 minutes/game spelling Myck, learning the offense and how to play at the college level. Instead, he logged more minutes than any other guard on the team & had to learn everything on the fly with Barnes pushing him. Inevitably, he hit the freshman wall *hard* and struggled the rest of the way, but the positive to come from last season is that he's definitely ready to hit the ground running & has more experience than most sophomore PGs normally do. I would like him to average less minutes this year, but Barnes historically keeps his starting PGs on the floor more than most coaches.
Demarcus Holland: 6 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 TOs, 0.3 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 20 MPG
Demarcus shot 46 3s last season. He made EIGHT. Unless he doubles his make rate, he needs to drive the ball & stay away from the jump shots. I like Demarcus' defensive effort and think his presence will be felt more on that side of the floor. That block stat isn't a misprint - Jaylen Bond, who is 4 inches taller, only had 1 more block than Demarcus - and Demarcus has fairly quick hands to snag a few steals. If he's consistently logging 30 minutes, then either Barnes has gone crazy or the next guy hasn't performed up to my hopes.
Demarcus Croaker: 9 PPG, 2 RPG, 2 APG, 1 TO, 1 SPG, 17 MPG
I'm just going to leave this right here.
Tell me why I shouldn't be excited about this guy. I already wanted to put his scoring numbers higher than this, and then he posted an Instagram of him practicing free throws so I might as well ask him to autograph my cleavage. I have no rational basis for liking Croaker this much, Youtube clips are notorious for only showing the good stuff. I just...I just have a hunch. If Texas makes the NCAAs, it's probably because Croaker is flourishing as the #2 scoring option behind Papi.
Isaiah Taylor: 3 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 TOs, 1 SPG, 10 MPG
Taylor is another interesting freshman on this squad. I don't see him taking a ton of minutes as he's pretty much only a PG(and I've mentioned Barnes' usage of his starting PGs), but I could see him coming in as a change of pace that allows Felix to sit and/or slide to the 2. His ability as a passer looks promising and he could eventually challenge Javan for the starting spot, but I don't see it happening this season.
Kendall Yancy-Harris: 2 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TOs, 0.3 SPG, 5 MPG
I'm not quite sure what to make of KYH just yet. He seems to have a lot of good press from guys that would know so it's entirely possible I'm severely underrating the guy, but I just haven't seen enough of him to really make much of a projection. Interestingly, I think they & I have the same opinions of Croaker & KYH, just with the names reversed. Anyway, there's only so many minutes to go around, and somebody's going to get left out. My guess is Kendall draws the short straw.
Martez Walker: N/A
No offense to Martez here, I just think he's redshirting this season.
If I'm wrong about this season, it's likely with this group. The only guy I feel fairly comfortable in my prediction is Javan, which is essentially the same problem this team had 12 months ago. There's so much youth & inexperience amongst the guards that it's hard to say where this will all end up. My gut tells me this team is firmly on the NCAA bubble all season long; whether it makes it to the NCAAs this year - and likely whether Barnes is here for 2014 - will depend on the production of freshman almost as much as last season.