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Last season, Texas’ home loss to TCU on January 11 dropped the Longhorns to 7-9 overall, and (in my opinion) guaranteed there was no chance the Longhorns would return to the NCAA Tournament in Shaka Smart’s second year. While the record is improved this year, Saturday’s 87-71 loss to the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth might have done the same thing in year three.
In order to get to what most experts believe will get a Big 12 team into the tournament, eight conference wins, Texas will have to beat Trae Young’s Oklahoma in Norman again, then defeat at least two teams they have not topped this year among Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia.
It’s a task that is monumentally more difficult without an elite outside scoring threat in Andrew Jones. There is little Smart could have done to alleviate the problems losing the team’s best scorer (an event that has happened in each of Smart’s three seasons at Texas) causes, but the defensive effort in particular since the big win over Oklahoma is reminiscent of last year’s team.
Texas’ effort on the defensive end in Fort Worth, for a team that prides itself and proves itself on that end (fifth in defensive efficiency in KenPom), was awful. The Frogs were down to seven scholarship players, missing a pivotal piece they had in the last matchup in Jaylen Fisher. That didn’t matter because TCU’s Vladimir Brodziansky’s 25 points was part of a great 54 percent shooting performance from the Frogs.
Jamie Dixon’s team can shoot. There’s no doubt about that. Anyone, however, can make open shots without a man anywhere near them or from within five feet of the basket. The defensive effort today was one of the worst Texas has put together all year, and some of the mental lapses and decision making on switching might have been the worst Smart has seen in his three seasons.
Where does that leave the Longhorns? Not in good shape, as previously mentioned. Mohamed Bamba can try to carry the team as much as he wants but when he scores 23, Eric Davis scores 16, and… that’s about it, Texas won’t win.
Dylan Osetkowski’s abysmal stretch is hampering this team’s ability to get anything going. Smart mentioned the other day the Tulane transfer isn’t trusting himself. It’s painfully obvious in his play and production.
Matt Coleman is playing like a star freshman. He has his star spells, but he has his freshman spells, too. It’s been mostly freshmen spells as of late.
Lack of effort on defense is mostly attributable to the players on the court. Lack of defensive presence of mind can be attributed both ways.
Everybody has to work to figure out something. If not, Texas fans might be able to catch Bamba a couple more times in Austin… in the NIT.