The 2015-2016 season is a year full of hope for the Horns as they begin a new era under new coach Shaka Smart. The team is stacked with veterans from Rick Barnes’ underachieving squad (Javan Felix, Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert, Cameron Ridley, Isaiah Taylor), but also has many new faces (Kerwin Roach Jr., Shaquille Cleare, Eric Davis Jr., Tevin Mack). How the two groups will blend is the big question.
Losing two of the team’s top scorers, Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes, will be the biggest hurdle for the team to overcome. Taylor’s athleticism makes him a perfect fit for Smart’s new up-tempo offense and he could see a big jump in productivity this year. He will be supported in the PG position by the firecracker freshman, Roach, who has the raw talent to be a big name for the program. Felix, Ridley, Holland and Kendal Yancy will all need to improve on their shooting in order for the team to avoid another 8-10 conference record. In the paint, the transfer from Maryland, Cleare, is the man to watch. After sitting out a year due to NCAA rules, his 6’8-285 frame will be a great addition to the inside rotation for Texas.
Most importantly, fans are the most excited and supportive then they have been in a long time. The Horns squad should expect an enthusiastic, and even possibly full, crowd at the Frank Erwin Center for the beginning of the season. Only time will tell if all the hype was deserved.
Key Departures: Myles Turner, Jonathan Holmes
Key Additions: Kerwin Roach Jr., Shaquille Cleare (Maryland), Eric Davis Jr.
The Big 12 is easily one of the deepest conferences in college basketball. Texas will have to fight for every win this season. However, the complete change in mindset to Smart’s new Havoc defense makes the Horns difficult to scout and predict. Last year, the team’s biggest struggle was winning on the road. They lost six out of their nine away games against conference opponents, including a 23-point stomping from Baylor in Waco. This year the team will need to perform better outside of the Erwin Center if they want to finish in the top of the Big 12. Key out-of-conference games will include a rekindled rivalry against Texas A&M in the Bahamas and North Carolina and UCONN in Austin.
|Fri.||11/6/2015||Tarleton State (exh)||5 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Fri.||11/13/2015||Washington||9 p.m.||Shanghai, China||ESPN||presented by Alibaba Group||Details|
|Battle 4 Atlantis Regional Game|
|Sat.||11/21/2015||Texas A&M-Corpus Christi||7 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Battle 4 Atlantis|
|Wed.||11/25/2015||Texas A&M||6 p.m.||Paradise Island, Bahamas||AXS TV||Details|
|Thu.||11/26/2015||Gonzaga OR Washington||Noon OR 6 p.m.||Paradise Island, Bahamas||ESPN or AXS TV||Details|
|Fri.||11/27/2015||Final Round||TBA||Paradise Island, Bahamas||ESPN or AXS TV||Details|
|Tue.||12/1/2015||UT Arlington||7 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Fri.||12/4/2015||Samford||8 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Tue.||12/8/2015||UTSA||7 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Sat.||12/12/2015||North Carolina||4:15 p.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN||Details|
|Tue.||12/15/2015||Appalachian State||7 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Sat.||12/19/2015||Stanford||10:30 p.m.||Stanford, Calif.||ESPN2||Details|
|Tue.||12/29/2015||Connecticut||8 p.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN2||presented by Direct Energy||Details|
|Sat.||1/2/2016||Texas Tech||TBA||Lubbock, Texas||ESPNU||Details|
|Tue.||1/5/2016||Kansas State||7 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Sat.||1/9/2016||TCU||6 p.m.||Fort Worth, Texas||ESPNU||Details|
|Tue.||1/12/2016||Iowa State||8 p.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN2||Details|
|Sat.||1/16/2016||Oklahoma State||5 p.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN2||presented by Pest Management||Details|
|Wed.||1/20/2016||West Virginia||6 p.m.||Morgantown, W. Va.||ESPNU||Details|
|Sat.||1/23/2016||Kansas||1 p.m.||Lawrence, Kan.||ESPN or ESPN2||Details|
|Tue.||1/26/2016||TCU||7 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||Details|
|Big 12 / SEC Challenge|
|Sat.||1/30/2016||Vanderbilt||11 a.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN or ESPN2||presented by Cheez-It||Details|
|Mon.||2/1/2016||Baylor||8 p.m.||Waco, Texas||ESPN||Details|
|Sat.||2/6/2016||Texas Tech||1 p.m.||Austin, Texas||Longhorn Network||presented by Jack Black||Details|
|Mon.||2/8/2016||Oklahoma||8 p.m.||Norman, Okla.||ESPN||Details|
|Sat.||2/13/2016||Iowa State||TBA||Ames, Iowa||ESPN or ESPN2||Details|
|Tue.||2/16/2016||West Virginia||6 p.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN2||presented by AT&T||Details|
|Sat.||2/20/2016||Baylor||1 p.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN or ESPN2||presented by H-E-B||Details|
|Mon.||2/22/2016||Kansas State||6 p.m.||Manhattan, Kan.||ESPNU||Details|
|Sat.||2/27/2016||Oklahoma||1 p.m.||Austin, Texas||CBS||presented by St. David’s HealthCare||Details|
|Mon.||2/29/2016||Kansas||8 p.m.||Austin, Texas||ESPN||Details|
|Fri.||3/4/2016||Oklahoma State||8 p.m.||Stillwater, Okla.||ESPN2||Details|
Best Case Scenario: The freshmen and Cleare are immediately productive for the Longhorns, giving them much-needed speed and excitement. Taylor finally proves to be the point guard fans always thought he could be and Felix is allowed to play a much-more-fitting supportive role. Big men Prince Ibeh, Ridley and Jordan Barnett are all able to split time and stay aggressive in the paint. We finally see the team’s shooting percentage increase with improvement from Yancy, Holland and Lammert on the perimeter. Everyone has bought into the Smart way of life and they pass Iowa St. and Oklahoma to finish 2nd in the Big 12.
Worst Case Scenario: We see the exact same thing we did under Barnes; spurts of greatness intertwined with a complete lack of offensive ability. Taylor continues to be middle-of-the-pack and without Turner and Holmes, the team relies on Felix’s yo-yo scoring too much. The freshmen, Roach, Davis and Mack are all too young and raw to make an impact early on and the big men, Cleare, Ridley and Lammert are overwhelmed by their Big 12 opponents. The team needs more time to get a handle on Smart’s changes and they struggle to get to the conference tournament.
Prediction: After seeing the plethora of videos on social media of Smart’s fast-paced workouts, I can’t imagine we will see the same slow-moving squad we did last year. They will probably still struggle with shooting and offense productivity but will make up for that with a tenacious defense that opponents are not prepared for. Taylor will likely still lead the team, gaining more confidence, but the quick freshman (especially Roach) will receive playing time early. Don’t expect the Horns to beat top teams like UNC or Kansas but I think the new scrappy mentality of Smart will give them a fighting chance against pretty much everyone else. The burnt orange go 21-10 (11-7).
Shelby Hodges is an intern staff writer for Texas Top 100. She studies journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, currently progressing through her senior year. Follow her on Twitter at @shelbylynn1229 for more hoops news and reporting.