In anticipation for Shaka Smart’s second season on The 40 Acres, HornSports college basketball writer Chris Flanagan predicts how the season will play out for the Longhorns and Shaka Smart in his second season on the 40 Acres.
The Longhorns will not have a serious test until the Legends Classic Championship Round in Brooklyn. They should easily handle the first 3 games at home (Incarnate Word, Louisiana Monroe and Eastern Washington) and Northwestern is a mediocre team, so look for a Texas vs. Notre Dame or Colorado matchup on 11/22. These two teams will be bubble teams throughout the season, and with a very weak non-conference schedule, the Longhorns need to win this tournament.
Beyond the Legends Classic, the Longhorns play 4 teams from Power 5 conferences: Alabama, Arkansas (in Houston), @Georgia and @Michigan. Not one of these 4 teams are ranked in the Top 25 and all but Michigan missed the NCAA tournament last year. These 4 teams could break out and be elite teams this year but preseason expectations are that they will not be very good.
The non-conference schedule is important not only for Texas but the overall strength of the Big 12. They must do well to set themselves up for what will be a tough Big 12 slate of games. I think they will.
Non-conference record prediction: 12-1*
Big 12 Conference Play
The Big 12 is not as strong as it has been in years past, but with 3 teams going to the Sweet 16 last year, the conference has established itself as a premier basketball conference. Every Big 12 coach has made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Every team has talent, but there must be a winner and a loser. Texas won 11 games in-conference last season, which was tied for the highest since the Big 12 moved to the round robin format in 2011. So no pressure right?
The Longhorns begin conference play with 4 winnable games, 2 of which are on the road (Kansas State and Iowa State). Then they play West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas, and Oklahoma before the SEC/Big 12 Challenge matchup against Georgia. Yikes.
That’s a rough stretch.
If the Longhorns go 6-2 headed into the game against Georgia, they will be a legit contender for the Big 12 title. If they are 4-4 or worse, it could be a sophomore slump for Shaka Smart.
Overall, I believe they will set a new record for wins in the Big 12 round robin era, but not by much.
Big 12 record prediction: 13-5
Conference finish prediction: 2nd
Overall record prediction: 25-6
After the bye, Texas will play Texas Tech. It will be close, but Texas should prevail. After Oklahoma upsets Baylor (See Big 12/National preview), Texas will advance to the championship game but lose to the Kansas Jayhawks.
Big 12 tournament result: Runners Up
Overall record: 27-7
Seed earned: 4
NCAA result: Round of 32 loss
Overall record: 28-8
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