Texas begins the 2017-18 campaign in Australia where they will play four exhibition games in seven days. With players like Mohamed Bamba and Matt Coleman joining Dylan Osetkowski, Andrew Jones and Eric Davis, Inside Texas’ basketball trio of Justin Wells, Joe Cook, and Tim Preston break down what they’re looking for during the Longhorns’ early morning games down under.
By: Joe Cook and Justin Wells
1. How do Kerwin Roach, Andrew Jones, and Eric Davis play without ball-handling responsibilities?
JC: Matt Coleman will be bringing the ball up the floor now as Shaka Smart finally has a true point guard. How will the athletic wings, each with a different style of scoring ability, be used to put the ball in the bucket? I think Jones could be the go-to guy when Texas needs a bucket.
JW: More freely, for starters. All had point guard duties in high school, but handling the ball in college-level pressure is a completely different animal. With Matt Coleman on board, the athletic shooting guards get to be actual shooting guards. Roach will move better without the ball and create turnover opportunities in the Havoc defense. Jones will get to use his playmaking skills off the ball; catch and shoot, slipping screens, and isolations. Davis will get to shoot set shots and create off the dribble. Davis arrived in Austin with a great outside stroke, but has since regressed under Smart. He’s only a few mechanical tweaks and confidence away from being a threat from downtown.
2. Where does Dylan Osetkowski thrive?
JC: Plenty of fans have been excited for Dylan O since his performance in the preseason scrimmage last year. He’s spent a year in the system, Smart has praised his presence on the team, just what impact will he have? Is his best ball going to be inside, on the mid-range, or stretching defenders away from the basket? I think he can mix in all three effectively, but I think Texas needs to have another reliable post option.
JW: In every inch of the paint. While the college game is led by guard play, a tough, capable post player is invaluable at this level. He’s got post moves, he’s a good defender, and he’s relentless on the glass. He adds experience and swagger to a unit in desperate need of bruiser. After Coleman, Osetkowski is the most important player on the Texas roster.
3. Just how much of this team is already Mohamed Bamba’s?
JC: With around 40 chances to see him in a Longhorn uniform, it will be interesting to me to see how much responsibility is given to the superstar freshman. Jarrett Allen, who became a focal point of the offense as soon as he stepped on campus, had the ball a lot in his hands early last season. Will Bamba be able to do the same? Will the offense looked forced like it did at times last season? His defensive prowess should be evident. I want to see him balance facilitating with making tough buckets, which is a lot to ask for a freshman.
JW: It’s hard to hand the keys to the program to a true freshman, and luckily Mo Bamba won’t be alone. But Bamba is a future NBA All-Star and the more he adapts to the college game, the more Smart and his staff will put on his shoulders. With Osetkowski on one block, and Bamba on the other, Big 12 guards should enter the lane at their own risk.
By: Tim Preston
1. How in control will Matt Coleman look?
It’s one thing for pundits/fans/everybody who cares about Texas basketball to say a true point guard can make all the difference in UT’s offensive aptitude. It’s another thing for Coleman to be a difference maker at that position right away. I’m less interested in his excellence than I am in his ability to control the pieces normally attributed to a point guard: bringing the ball up against pressure; capably initiating offensive sets; creating quality looks for others; thoughtfully managing the team’s individual shot selection/numbers; etc. Much is expected of the young lead man. I wanna see how he does in his first burnt orange showing.
2. How long are Eric Davis’ and Jacob Young’s leashes?
It’s a preseason trip overseas for games that mean nothing to the overall W/L record, but I can’t help but believe that both Eric and Jacob are going to need to produce some quality shooting and decision making down under if they hope to have meaningful roles with this team. Coleman’s going to get the lion’s share of the point guard minutes. Jones and Roach are for sure starters and Febres is receiving plenty of accolades for his shooting and hoops IQ. So, how much faith will Shaka put in his “shooters” if the shots aren’t falling?
3. How many studs are really on this team?
Could be one (Bamba). Could be five (Jones, Roach, Osetkowski, Coleman). Could be eight (Sims, Febres, Hamm). Anywhere in between? Last year’s debacle was soul crushing, at least in part, because the talent was clear, even if the whole was less than the sum of the parts. Does that pan out this year as players are in their more natural positions? Or has Shaka recruited a team of individuals whom don’t fit together to make a cohesive, quality team? Winning games takes players, and I think we’re gonna be just fine, but it’ll take more than belief.