As the NCAA Tournament gets under way, the Texas Longhorns will be seeded in 7th the seed. This is an improvement from last year’s team which failed to reach the tournament for the first time in the Rick Barnes coaching era. The Longhorns will be facing the 10th seeded Arizona State Sun Devils in the first round of tournament play on Thursday, today, at 9:40pm EST.
The Longhorns season surprised many people all over the Big 12. They finished with a record of 23-10 and a conference record of 11-7 which was good enough for ranking 3rd in the conference. These stats were very surprising because the Longhorns were picked to finish in the bottom half of the conference. Even more so since they lost five of their players from last year to the NBA draft and transfers.
The Longhorns are one of the youngest teams in the nation. The oldest scholarship player is junior Jonathan Holmes. With the team being so young, Coach Rick Barnes had a lot of work on his hands to get this team to be a contender. The non-conference schedule is always tough under Coach Barnes with the likes of North Carolina and Michigan State. With the Longhorns gaining a win at North Carolina on prime time television, this showed the Big 12 and the rest of America that they were ready to compete this season.
The Big 12 conference play started out rough for the Longhorns. They began the season 1-2 losing to both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. This had many people thinking that this was the same old team from last year. But Barnes rallied the troops with wins over the likes of Kansas State, Iowa State and even an impressive home blowout of the number one seeded Kansas.
During conference play many new stars emerged for this young Longhorn team. Players that were on the team last year such as sophomores Cameron Ridley and Javon Felix and junior Jonathan Holmes did a complete 180 on their performances from last year. Felix improved his shooting percentage and developed a three point shot that was no where to be found last year. Ridley improved his conditioning and the former McDonald’s All American play showed. He became a force in the paint on both sides of the ball. Holmes also improved his play by becoming more aggressive and displaying more leadership than in years past.
The Longhorns’ freshman class became one of the more underrated classes in the country. They were overlooked from the start with only one recruit being in the top 100. Despite having thirty three point guards ahead of him in the point guard rankings, Isaiah Taylor became one of the best young point guards in the country. Taylor helped give the Longhorns the answer they needed at the point guard position. Other freshmen such as Kendal Yancy and Martez Walker look to give the Longhorns some outside shooting that they so greatly need.
If the same players return next year the Longhorns can only get better with top 100 player Jordan Barnett and possibly the number two player in the country in Myles Turner. These additions along with another year under everyone’s belt will make the Longhorns one of the more interesting teams in the country next year.
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports with the photo