Having survived one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, the Texas Longhorns open Big 12 play this afternoon against Baylor in Waco. Okay, maybe “survived” is too strong a word—they did lose five times, and it’s going to take a strong-to-quite-strong effort to make the postseason, but at least nobody ended up like this guy.
The Bears come in with an uneven 8-4 record, with strong showings like the nine-point win at Kentucky jaded by “What the hell, bro?” moments like the home loss to the College of Charleston. A quick scan of their roster, though, reveals them to be your typical Scott Drew team, with plenty of talent and a bunch of 200 lb., 6’9” guys who are equipped with the condor-like reach of Kevin Durant. Despite wearing the un-point guard-esque #55, senior Pierre Jackson has managed to lead the team in scoring and assists (19.6 PPG, 6.3 APG), while Isaiah Austin has traded in his top recruit status (No. 4 in the 2012 Rivals 150) for the “freshman sensation” tag, averaging 14.5 points per game on 51.9% shooting. If this tandem doesn’t get you, watch out for a pair of “They’re still there?” guys in senior A.J. Walton and junior Brady Heslip (When he’s raining threes like he did against Colorado in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Heslip also doubles as a “How is the long lost son of assassin Felix LaPubelle from Grosse Point Blank beating us?” guy).
It’s these “They’re still there?” type-guys that Texas is sorely missing. To achieve this status, you must a)torment opposing teams and fans and b)do so for a minimum of three seasons (it’s that third go-round when the real exasperation sets in). And as the youngest team in the country, with an average of .41 years experience—.41!—the Horns don’t have anyone who qualifies (outside of walk-ons Andrew Dick and Dean Melchionni). They’ve had the unfortunate perfect storm combination of players either not tormenting (Clint Chapman, Alexis Wangmene) or not tormenting for long enough (Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Jordan Hamilton, etc., etc., etc.).
But UT has shown signs of life recently, and with a roster this young, there’s no reason to believe that that progress won’t continue at a rapid pace. Still, even with steady improvement throughout the season, Texas will most likely be a ways away from the dynamic force they might one day become. So while opposing fans can rest easy for now, it’d be wise to disregard the names and faces of these young Longhorns, at least for the time being. It just might save them a heavy dose of exasperation later.
The game is set for 1pm CST and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
You can contact Brent Stoller at [email protected]