As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just about one month from now - and to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year.
In case you missed it, we've already previewed the Memphis Tigers, then hit the Illinois Fighting Illini, Wyoming Cowboys, Xavier Musketeers, Michigan State Spartans, Alabama Crimson Tide, Arizona Wildcats, San Diego State Aztecs and UConn Huskies. We also covered Dayton, a Top 25 team at A-10 Media Days
Today, Zac looks at the fascinating Texas Longhorns. A season of excitement was largely disappointing in Year 1 for Chris Beard. Now, it's time to see what Year 2 has in store.
How it went down in 2021-2022
One year ago at this time, the excitement level was through the roof in Austin for the Texas Longhorns basketball team. It was of course because of the return of Chris Beard, a former student, who led cross-state rival to unprecedented heights in his time as the Red Raiders' head coach.
Prior to Beard’s arrival, Texas Tech was an afterthought as a program, only making the NCAA Tournament once from 2008-2016. Beard was able to have Texas Tech back in the Big Dance in Year 2, bringing them to the Elite Eight that season. A year later was the team's first Final Four, a run that ended with an overtime loss in the title game to Virginia.
If he could make magic happen in Lubbock, the thought was, what could he do in Austin? Especially coming into a stable program that was coming off a Big 12 Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth in 2021. No, Shaka Smart wasn't the answer, but he certainly left a nice foundation for Beard.
And as soon as he arrived in Austin, Beard made a statement on the recruiting trail bringing in some of the best available transfers on the market. The group included All-Pac 12 wing Timmy Allen from Utah, Tre Mitchell from UMass, Devin Askew from Kentucky, Christian Bishop from Creighton, and the biggest get of them all, Marcus Carr from Minnesota. The thought process was these transfers combined with a few productive holdovers from the Shaka Smart era, along with Chris Beard would finally be the recipe that Texas needed to reach big-time success.
The Longhorns were ranked No. 5 in the official preseason AP Top 25, but unfortunately it became clear early they weren’t the team being advertised at the start. In their first big challenge of the season, Texas got blown out by Gonzaga in a game that was never particularly close, and lost at Seton Hall a few weeks later. The only win Texas was able to collect against a Power 6 team during non- conference play was against a bad Stanford team.
The Longhorns were able to win enough games during Big 12 play to comfortably secure a bid in the NCAA Tournament, but the team never really found its groove in the regular season. Overall, the Longhorns never won more than three straight in league play. While Texas didn’t have a poor season at all - considering they won 22 games and earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament - it did feel disappointing relative to expectations.
Once they got to the Big Dance, Texas did end up winning their first game of the NCAA Tournament against No. 11 seeded Virginia Tech. This was shockingly Texas’ first NCAA Tournament victory since 2014, which is even more evidence that Chris Beard would always need some time to turn this thing around and it wasn’t going to happen overnight. The Longhorns' season ended in a Round of 32 loss to Purdue, in which the Boilermakers were the better team from start to finish.
Despite a solid first season for Chris Beard from a whole long-term perspective, Texas fans likely won’t remember this season too fondly, considering the expectations and not living up to them.
However, with the way things felt, the fact that Texas was still able to win their first NCAA Tournament game since 2014, is an accomplishment that should only be built upon as more time goes by.
What You Need To Know About 2022-2023
Key Returnees: Timmy Allen, Marcus Carr, Christian Bishop, Dylan Disu, Brock Cunningham
Key Losses: Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, Tre Mitchell, Jase Febres, Devin Askew
Key Transfers: Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State), Sir’Jabari Rice (New Mexico State)
Key Recruits: Dillon Mitchell, Rowan Brumbaugh, Arterio Morris (*currently suspended)
Despite losing three of their top five scorers from a year ago, Chris Beard will have plenty of options to go with this Longhorn team.
Most importantly, two key players - ironically - the team's two leading scorers last year, Timmy Allen and Marcus Carr elected to use their extra year of Covid eligibility to return for a final season. They combined to average 23.5 points per game a season ago.
In addition, Texas brings in a ton of talent from both the transfer portal and high school ranks.
It starts in the portal, and unlike last year when Texas decided to reload their entire roster through the portal, this year they brought in just one marquee player: Iowa State Transfer Tyrese Hunter, who has a chance to be one of the better players in not only the Big 12, but all of College Basketball this season.
Hunter was the recipient of the Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season and impressed on both sides of the ball. Hunter can do everything with the ball in his hands including score off the bounce, pass and shoot. In addition, Hunter should be a perfect fit, as the head of the snake in Chris Beard’s defense. During his days at Texas Tech, Beard always had that one defensive stopper to make a major impact and limit the other teams scoring ability. From Norense Odiase to Kevin McCullar, those guys are what made some of those Texas Tech teams so successful and now Hunter will have a chance to fit that billing, after averaging two full steals per game last season.
With the addition of Hunter, Beard has made it very clear that he thinks this will help Marcus Carr in a big way, moving him off the ball. Carr struggled a bit last year with his turnovers, giving the ball away twice per game, which is also something he has struggled with throughout his career. Off the ball, the ideal result would see Carr being able to score and play much more free opposed to last season.
Beard also brought in a ton of freshman talent to the 40- acres, starting off with Dillon Mitchell, who is ranked as the No. 5 Player in the high school class of 2022 per 24/7 Sports. Mitchell is someone who has a likely future of playing in the NBA. As one of the most athletic players in this High School Class, Mitchell thrives in transition when he could get out and go. Having Hunter, Carr and Mitchell on the floor at the same time is going to be extremely fun to watch, especially in the open floor. While Mitchell can shoot the three ball a little bit, that is going to be something he needs to learn how to knock down consistently, if he wants to take the next step as a scorer. This Texas team has plenty of firepower, and it will be interesting to see how Mitchell fits into the equation
There are two other freshmen in the fold, wing Rowan Brumbaugh and guard Arterio Morris. Like Mitchell, Morris was a McDonald's All-American, but found himself in the news for an off-season arrest when he was charged with misdemeanor assault. When Beard was asked about the situation, he told reporters:
“There’s not much I can say,” Beard said. “But I can say very clearly again as soon as we heard about the situation — Arterio, himself, being very transparent — we immediately turned that into the appropriate channels. That thing is in the Title IX office’s hands at the University of Texas. They make a lot of the decisions on what day-to-day looks like that going forward. We just trust the process. That’s about all I can say, but as soon as new information comes out, we’ll be the first to show you guys that.”
This will be a situation to monitor throughout the season, considering Morris was ranked as the No. 1 point guard and No. 17 overall prospect in the Class of 2022 according to 24/7 Sports.
This will be the first season that Texas will be playing games at their new home, The Moody Center, which is located on campus in Austin. After playing Arkansas in a Charity Exhibition in late October, the Longhorns will play their first marquee game of the season against Gonzaga with a chance to show off their new home.
As mentioned above, these two teams played early last year. Despite a lot of hype and excitement going into this game last season, Texas never stood a chance, getting blown out to Gonzaga by 12 points and it really wasn’t that close. This time around, even though the Zags will likely be ranked within the top 2 again, it won’t be an easy task, especially with it being the first big home game in the new building. Chris Beard has done whatever he can since arriving in Austin to build the fanbase and give them every reason to come out and support his Longhorns. This was very similar to what he did to revitalize a Texas Tech program that was struggling way worse than the Texas program is now.
Gonzaga won’t be the only likely team ranked in the Preseason Top 10 that will be playing at Moody Arena, during the non-conference slate. Texas will also welcome in Creighton, who is a team to watch, after they made and advanced in the NCAA Tournament last year, while bringing most of their key contributors back who are all young and should improve. This will be another challenge for Texas, considering Creighton has a ton of experience already playing with each other. Still, from a talent perspective this is a game that Texas can absolutely win especially at home.
Just when you thought scheduling two teams likely to be ranked in the Top 5 of the Preseason AP Poll was enough, Texas will also face Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in December. Illinois is a team that loses a lot from a very successful season last year, which included a Big Ten regular season title. Despite the losses, Brad Underwood has established himself as one of the better and more underrated coaches in the country and brought in a ton of talent from the transfer portal. Some of these players include guys that Texas fans and Chris Beard are very familiar with from their players' days in the Big 12. Chris Beard’s former Texas Tech player Terrance Shannon Jr. and former Baylor national championship winning forward Matthew Mayer are both part of this new look Illini roster.
With Illinois projected to be one of the better teams in the Big Ten, this will be another massive opportunity for Texas to show on the bright lights and big stage, that this team is different than years past and are able to get the job done.
What to Expect in 2022-2023
Texas is one of the more difficult teams to rank and project results for, heading into the 2022-2023 season.
On the one hand, they have one of the most talented rosters in college basketball and a head coach with a proven track record of success. The problem is, they also return quite a few players off of a squad last year that came in with a lot of hype, but for the most part was disappointing.
Again, we went through this with Texas a season ago. At this time last year, many were expecting Texas to be one of the premier teams in the sport, but from the beginning the chemistry looked off and very rarely did everyone look like they were on the same page. When you have a first year Head Coach, that isn’t the most surprising thing to see necessarily, but it felt like Texas should have been a better and more consistent team last season.
The question now becomes, is it possible for that chemistry can be fixed when you’re adding arguably the best transfer available (Hunter) and at least one and potentially two top 20 freshmen (depending on the status of Morris) who are looking to use this season as a pathway to the NBA? It will be interesting to see how the production is distributed with this Texas team and if it’ll be enough to officially turn the page after some bad moments last season.
Beyond that, the truth is that the Big 12 has been the premier conference in college basketball over the last five plus years, producing each of the last two National Champions in Kansas and Baylor. With that being said, many teams are losing a ton of production from last year including Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech, who were really the three clear best teams in the Big 12 last season. Now, teams that return a little more production like Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others are really going to have an opportunity to close that gap.
My official prediction for Texas is that they will finish fourth in the Big 12, behind Baylor, Kansas and TCU. There is a ton of talent on this team, but it is still unknown if they will all be able to get on the same page and play consistently great basketball. While I still believe Chris Beard is the right man for the job, last year was so disappointing that there needs to be more shown and proven on the basketball court until they can be 100 percent trusted. It was going to take some time for Beard to completely turn things around, considering how much disappointment most of the Shaka Smart era was.
However, the one thing that can’t be denied is the fact that Beard has built one of the more talented teams in the country this season, with future NBA talent, and if all things do work out it could be a very special season.
No. 30 - Memphis Tigers
No. 29 - Illinois Fighting Illini
No. 28 - Dayton Flyers
No. 27 - Wyoming Cowboys
No. 26 - Xavier Musketeers
No. 25 - Michigan State Spartans
No. 24 - Alabama Crimson Tide
No. 23 - Texas Tech Red Raiders
No. 22 - Arizona Wildcats
No. 21 - San Diego State Aztecs
No. 20 - UConn Huskies
Follow Zac on Twitter - @ZacKrull_