It was a fun 24 hours, but Texas fell back to earth tonight as they lost to the West Virginia Mountaineers in a game featuring many of the hallmarks of Texas losses the last 4 months. They’re not particularly new, and they’re not particularly hard to spot. Rather than tread on well-worn territory, I’m going to spend the final recap...uhh, not recapping. Instead, let’s look forward to what this team will look like as they reset the record to 0-0 and start anew in November.
Jarrett Allen (please, sweet baby jebus)
At this point, there’s a decent chance Allen comes back next season. I’ve heard this possibility bandied about privately by people who are generally skeptical of top-20 draft picks returning for their sophomore year to the point I’m willing to consider it a plausible outcome. I won’t give it more than 50/50 odds unless Allen himself texts me and says he’s coming back, but the fact that it might be a coin toss is a small victory unto itself. If Allen returns, he is immediately one of the 10 best players in the Big 12 next season; he was top-five in conference play in block percentage, top-five in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate, and had the sixth-best eFG %. His only limitation was the guards’ ability to feed him the ball, and Matt Coleman should present a significant improvement in that realm. He averaged nearly a double-double and will be returning with added muscle and several more months learning from Horn and Shaka Smart. If Allen returns, he will put up monster numbers and be positioning himself as a top-ten pick in the draft. The only thing that could derail him is an injury.
On the Pretend We’re Football podcast, we have mentioned Matt Coleman approximately 183 times over the last five shows, and I hesitate to pile up expectations on this kid any more than has already been done. It has been made plain just how important he is to the success of the team next year; he may not have quite the rating buzz of Oklahoma’s 5-star Trae Young, but it’s arguable that Coleman’s potential impact could be larger since he’s more likely to stick around multiple years. Also, have you seen Coleman’s stats this year? In 28 games — high school games, where he played 24 minutes/game — he has nearly as many assists as Kerwin Roach Jr and Andrew Jones combined. I know, it’s high school, but I’m paying attention to anybody with a 6.58:1 ATO his senior year. If he’s even half that efficient at Texas, this offense will be significantly better.
I think it’s fair to say the NBA draft hype on Jones has died down in the last month. I won’t be surprised if he declares to get info from scouts, but as it stands now I expect him to return. With him back, you get a scorer with elite vision and above-average passing ability running alongside a point guard with a reputation for distributing the ball to scorers where and when they want the ball. Imagine Jones — a guy with as much a capacity to hit 35%+ from three as he does to finish at the rim — on the wing with Coleman running the point, and it’s not hard to imagine Texas scoring more points next year than they have this year. If nothing else, it gives us a glimpse at a team that doesn’t have the maddeningly predictable scoring droughts we were forced to endure this year.
Banks’ defense against West Virginia was solid, and more to the point it was what we have been seeing bits of throughout the season. Texas loses Cleare’s offense but gets an improved defensive center next year, a center that’s better able to anchor the back of an aggressive defense, a center that can play above the rim. If Texas lands Bamba, then Banks will be the backup center in a very, very tall group of bigs.
Roach showed pretty definitively that point guard is not in his professional future, but he also showed that when you put him on the wing where his decision tree is simplified, he can better deploy his freakish athleticism. Relieved of point guard duties, Roach may very well return as an improved form of what we saw his freshman year. Roach is a high-level athlete and plays better when he’s reacting rather than thinking or trying to run the offense; next season will be full of potential for him.
Between Eric Davis Jr, Dylan Osetkowski, Jase Febres, and Royce Hamm, somebody will step up to be another shooter opponents have to account for. (Coleman isn’t a terrible shooter, but that will likely be a secondary part of his game.) There is the potential for Texas to run Coleman, Jones, Osetkowski, Allen (don’t be shocked if he hits 30% from deep next year), and Banks out at once, which could space the floor better than what Texas did this year. There are other variations out there that could yield different types of threats; Davis could play the three in smaller lineups and be a credible outside threat. This year has been rough, and it’s easy to forget Davis hit 38% of his threes his freshman year. If Davis is allowed to take as many uncontested threes as he did in 2015, his make percentage will inevitably rise. The larger point remains: Texas will have more shooters on the roster in November than they do in March.
This team’s effort was rarely in question, but they spent more time on different pages than a room full of Sooners reading a choose-your-own-adventure book as part of their doctorate program. This team will have another off-season to work on their execution, but it’s not just that. Shaka Smart has setup a summer trip to Australia for the team. They will spend two weeks Down Under playing a series of exhibition games against professional teams, honing their play against quality opposition. In addition to that, Texas gets to practice for a couple of weeks to prepare for the trip, so Texas effectively gets an extra month of practices over nearly all the teams in the Big 12. (OU is doing something similar this summer.) You think that might help a bit?
As we bury this season twelve feet under to make sure it never resurfaces, then set fire to the land to make sure it doesn’t have any bits still above ground, then salt the earth because holy shit just fuck this season forever, take a moment to consider this debacle of a sports year might be on the verge of an upswing. The talent is still coming to campus, the coaching staff hasn’t forgotten how to coach, and the freshmen do the thing they do best; they become sophomores.
See y’all next year.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Ant TC1.