For the second straight season, Texas basketball has opened the season with a 4-0 record. This year though, it feels different considering the quality of opponents the Longhorns faced the past 3 days and the potential they showed in Asheville during the Maui Invitational. Heading into the tournament, it was thought a 2-1 showing against quality competition would leave the Longhorns satisfied heading back to Austin. Instead, Matt Coleman’s step back jumper with .1 seconds remaining gave Texas a 3-0 record in the tournament and the Maui Invitational championship.
It was an eventful 3 days for Shaka Smart’s team. College basketball teams never play on consecutive days outside of early season tournaments, so it served as a test to the Longhorns depth. Texas answered the test despite facing foul trouble in nearly every game, with Smart getting significant minutes out of Brock Cunningham, Kai Jones and Royce Hamm Jr off the bench.
Matt Coleman was easily the MVP of the tournament, reaching double figures in points in all 3 games and pouring in a team-high 22 points in the championship game. Coleman also barely missed a double-double in the opening game against Providence (10 points and 9 assistants). The Texas offense looks much improved from years past, and Coleman appears to have a good grasp on how Smart wants the offense to look.
Freshman Greg Brown entered the season with a ton of hype and was expected to lead a strong frontcourt, but early in the season it has been a balanced effort across the board, with Brown, Jericho Sims, Kai Jones and Royce Hamm all making positive impacts. If there is one positive trend for Brown moving forward, it was the fact he appeared to be getting into more of a rhythm with his outside shot in against UNC and connected on his first 3-pointer of the season.
How good is this team?
After 4 games, it is fairly easy to draw the conclusions that this is Shaka Smart’s deepest team since he’s been at Texas. The Longhorns have 10 guys who can give them quality minutes, and does not include G Jase Febres, who is still working his way back from injury. Texas has all the ingredients to make a lot of noise in the Big 12 this season and position themselves well for the NCAA Tournament. One thing to keep in mind is the Big 12 is insanely deep this year and there will not be many breaks in the schedule. A team with a veteran backcourt and depth in the frontcourt has a chance to beat any team in the country on any given night. If the Longhorns continue to grow on the defensive end and receive consistent shooting from the likes of Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones, there is no reason they shouldn’t be playing during the second weekend of The Big Dance.
Texas will face another tough test at the Erwin Center on Sunday when 12th ranked Villanova visits Austin. Following the contest against the Wildcats, the Longhorns will get one more tune up game against Texas State on Wednesday before traveling to Waco for the Big 12 opener against Baylor.
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