#29 Texas: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #29
Conference Rank: #5 Big 12 Conference
2009-10: 24-10, 9-7
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Barnes (294-115 at Texas, 496-249 overall)
Despite all the talent on the 2009-2010 Texas roster, this team was quite disappointing. Injuries were certainly part of the problem, but there is no excuse for the Longhorns to be so bad at the free-throw line and be so inconsistent shooting the ball. The plethora of turnovers did not help either. While a lot is lost from Coach Rick Barnes’ group, in the end he may have a better team this season, but a less talented and experienced team.
Key Losses: G Avery Bradley, G Justin Mason, G Damion James, C Dexter Pittman
The two newcomers could play a huge role for the Longhorns. Point guard Cory Joseph will battle it out with the veterans for major playing time. At the start of the season he will likely be coming in off the bench, but if he lives up to his potential, and others falter, he definitely has the skill to be a starting point guard as a freshman. Tristan Thompson, another highly touted recruit, could find himself in a starting role right away due to the lack of experience in the frontcourt. If Thompson can start hitting the mid-range jumper with more consistency, the 6-8 forward will be a great player this year.
The problems stemmed from the backcourt. Varez Ward started at the point, but only lasted four games before ending his season with an injury. Dogus Balbay was finally starting to come into his own, but then he too got injured. Balbay is a decent point guard and will probably end up starting early in the season, but the Istanbul, Turkey product needs to emerge as a scoring threat or somebody else will take his job. J’Covan Brown could be that guy after having a relatively successful freshman campaign. Brown averaged 9.6 points per game, but was pretty heavy on the turnovers. If he can hit the long ball more consistently, Brown could end up playing a lot of time at the shooting guard spot. Jai Lucas could improve as well following a disappointing season after a transfer from Florida. The 5-10 senior only has one shot left, so he will try and be more than the second or third guard off of the bench.
Gary Johnson is the new star of the frontcourt, unless Thompson quickly takes over that moniker. Johnson is a little undersized at 6-6, but he is tough around the basket. Johnson has no problem scoring over larger defenders or using his strength to hit the glass hard. Without Damion James and Dexter Pittman, Johnson will be asked to do more scoring in the paint and a lot more rebounding. Shawn Williams missed most of his freshman campaign with an injury, but he can provide depth at the three and four spots. The bigger question is at center. Thompson should end up taking over that job sooner rather than later, but Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman at least have to play some quality minutes at the four and five spots. Both averaged less than eight minutes per game last season, but they are the bigger bodies who will hang out in the paint, block some shots and grab some boards. If those two can play 15 minutes per game without much of a drop off in production behind James and Thompson, the frontcourt will be in great shape.
Who to Watch:
World…meet Jordan Hamilton. As a freshman, the 6-7 forward averaged less than 20 minutes per game. But when he was on the floor, he made the most of those minutes. He ended the season averaging 10.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. There is not much that Hamilton cannot do; except shoot free-throws. He is a fine outside shooter and will use his size and quickness to attack the basket. Hamilton may not be able to hit the glass as effectively as former wing James, but he can certainly score just as much.
Hamilton could end up playing at the shooting guard spot since he is the best shooter on the team. That may happen when Texas needs to play big, but it seems like a waste to make Balbay, Brown, Lucas and Joseph fight for one starting spot at the point. That is especially true if the frontcourt cannot find enough depth to move Johnson to the three spot. Coach Barnes will work out a good rotation and this will be a very talented team by March. They need a leader and consistent play from the point guard position, but there are way too many talented options for that to remain a problem barring another rash of injuries.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Dogus Balbay, Senior, Guard, 3.8 ppg
J’Covan Brown, Sophomore, Guard, 9.6 ppg
Jordan Hamilton, Sophomore, Guard, 10.0 ppg
Gary Johnson, Senior, Forward, 9.4 ppg
Tristan Thompson, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Next Top 144 Teams