Tomorrow night, Texas steps back on the court for the first time since their time in Las Vegas where a win/loss against UNC/MSU saw the Longhorns catapult all the way up to #17 in both the AP and Coaches’ polls.
Currently, Texas sits at 5-1 with home games against Radford (tomorrow), VCU, Purdue, Grand Canyon, Providence and UT Arlington left during the non-league slate of their season (with the exception of a Jan. 26 trip to Georgia for the Big 12/SEC Challenge).
At this point, the Longhorns are favored in each of those contests. Unsurprising. Those games are all at home and against teams who are capable but far from world beaters.
That means that Texas is favored to take an 11-1 record into their Big 12 schedule when they start league play after the first of the year. To state that would be huge is a vast understatement. The last time Texas had fewer than two losses in the non-conference portion of the schedule was 2009-10 when the Horns rolled of the first 17 games of the season with wins (we won’t discuss what happened after that).
For a team that knows that making noise come March is the barometer for success which matters most to them this year, the better their record, the better chance they’ll have at a solid seed come tourney time.
That being said, there are a few things I’ll be watching for as Texas looks to solidify their positioning as a team to be reckoned with this year.
- Perimeter shooting. 31% ain’t gonna get it done when the heart of the Big 12 slate sees teams pack it in and force the Longhorns to be efficient from deep (especially on the road). These next six games needs to find Texas figuring out who can be a volume shooter, where those guys are most efficient, how they can get more out of Hepa from deep and which rotations give them the best offensive output against sagging defenses.
- High post offense. Right now, it’s non-existent. When Dylan was first being recruited as a transfer, I had assumed this would be an area where he would spend at least some of his time. Same for Hepa and Liddell. They don’t. Currently, the high post is a freeway for us as we play through it, but seem to avoid it as a place to initiate/facilitate offense. That’s okay. We don’t need to have a big presence there, but it’s a soft spot of the zone and sagging defenses that we simply don’t exploit. Can we get some more looks there? Can we figure out who’s comfortable/competent in that area? It would help.
- Hard bounce three point shots. While it’s not a sign of good offense, three point shooting off the dribble is a necessary evil for all teams with high aspirations. Limiting the number of hard bounce perimeter jumpers is/should be a focus (and we certainly don’t want for it to be viewed as a staple), but finding somebody on our roster who can be at least somewhat efficient at them would go a long ways.
- Defensively, we need to do a better job of finding shooters on breakdown situations. I know we want to run and that releasing when balls go into breakdown spots it’s enticing to get on the move, but we’ll have to balance that with how many open looks teams get against us if we get going too quickly. As the opponents become consistently good (only UT Arlington is below .500 of all the teams left on Texas’ schedule).