The Texas Longhorns started 17-0 last season and made it up to the No. 1 rating for the first time in school history. Many expected them to make a Final Four run, especially with future NBA prospects in Avery Bradley, Damion James and Dexter Pittman. But over the next several months, the Longhorns would finish the year with a 7-10 record while getting bounced in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament to Wake Forest. Head coach Rick Barnes believes the way they concluded last year was due to missing team chemistry. Barnes felt that there were too many egos on last year’s team, and not enough leadership. The Longhorns will be looking for quite a few players to step up this season to supply that leadership. It would be guards Varez Ward or Dogus Balbay. Senior forward Gary Johnson could be ready to breakout, and even possibly freshman five-star recruit Cory Joseph may be the solution. Either way, Texas needs to return to playing team basketball after a unsatisfactory season to say the least.
You will find Texas at +300 to win the Big 12 this year. In my mind, there isn’t much value in them winning the league title. This has the looks of a reloading year for Texas. BetUS has these NCAA basketball spreads posted, so if you want to wager on which team will win the conference then sign up for a new account with them. Deposit $500 or more and they’ll reward you with $500 free money to get you started.
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The Longhorns may go small this year, with two bigs and three guards on the court most of the time. Gary Johnson figures to be their top player inside after averaging 9.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG last season. He’ll be joined by five-star recruit Tristan Thompson, who was Cory Joseph’s teammate at Findlay Prep in Nevada. But Texas will have to replace their leading scorer in Damion James, who also ended up as the Big 12’s all-time leading rebounder. Dexter Pittman will also be missed after being taken No. 32 overall by the Miami Heat. The Longhorns do have some experience that will provide depth in the frontcourt. It will come from seniors Matt Hill and Clint Chapman along with junior Alexis Wangmene.
Guard play will probably determine how Texas fares this season. Cory Joseph must gel with offensive-minded shooting guards in J’Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton. Brown averaged 9.6 PPG last year but shot just 35.4 percent from the floor, while Hamilton is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.0 PPG. Barnes is very big on both players with what they’ve done in the offseason to improve their games beginning their sophomore seasons. Ward and Balbay are both healing from injuries that required surgery, and each is able to provide leadership and defensive toughness, two traits that are very key to Texas’ success this season. Hamilton, Brown and Joseph figure to be the team’s primary point producers, and Texas could get some scoring from Shawn Williams as well. He is returning from an ankle injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the season just seven games into their 2010-11 season. At 6’6”, he can get a shot whenever he wants and could be a great 3-point shooter.
Jack’s Prediction: 5th Place in the Big 12 – Barnes said last season was the worst coaching job of his career. He had a team full of offensive talent, but advocated defense and rebounding so much at the end of the season that his team could lost their rhythm on the other end. He will always teach defense and rebounding first, but this year he must find a way to replace three of their top four scorers from a year ago. If Joseph can master the ball screen offense that Barnes likes to employ, then it could be a great season in Texas after back-to-back middle-of-the-pack finishes in the Big 12.
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