The Texas basketball program was left just on the outside looking in for NBC Sports way-too-early top 25 rankings for the 2020-21 season.
Retrospective thoughts are going to be mixed for head coach Shaka Smart and the Texas basketball program from the season that was. Before they got to play their first game in the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, their season was cancelled due to all the precautions surrounding the novel coronavirus.
The Texas Longhorns basketball program finished up their run from the 2019-20 season with a record of 19-12 (9-9 Big 12). Their last game saw them fall short by the final score of 81-59 at the hands of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the regular season finale at the Frank Erwin Center back on March 7.
Texas was supposed to take the role of a four-seed in the Big 12 Tournament, and take on the five-seed Texas Tech Red Raiders on March 12 in their first game. They were also on the bubble heading into Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. But obviously that never came to fruition.
COVID-19 precautions have effectively shut down the sports world, and could keep it on hiatus for another couple weeks to another few months.
However, the speculation for what could be to come for the 2020-21 college basketball season is already underway. We’re sure to be in for a tumultuous 2020 offseason, especially given the rise of the NCAA Transfer Portal in college hoops and football in recent years.
NBC Sports released their “way-too-early” college basketball top 25 rankings for the 2020-21 season, on March 22. That list saw four teams from the deep Big 12 included in the top 25, and a few right on the outside looking in. The four included in the top 25 included the Baylor Bears (No. 3), Kansas Jayhawks (No. 8), Texas Tech (No. 9), and the West Virginia Mountaineers (No. 21).
In terms of the teams left on the outside looking in (NBC Sports didn’t mention the honorable mentions were in any particular order, though), the first team up was Texas. They were included in a list of honorable mentions with the Indiana Hoosiers, UConn Huskies, Arizona State Sun Devils, and Colorado Buffaloes.
NBC Sports used a set of factors in these rankings that encompasses who’s gone, who’s coming back, those still on the fence, new faces, and projected starters. The projected starting five that NBC Sports had for the Longhorns next season included center Jericho Sims, forward Kai Jones, wing Jase Febres, and guards Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey.
Four of the five Longhorns in the projected starting five would be upperclassmen, and one will be a sophomore. Smart looks to have a very experienced team returning as he could be on the hot seat again entering the 2020-21 regular season.
If Texas gets any immediate impact incoming players out of the transfer portal, that could help too. Texas also has the impending commitment decision of five-star Vandegift and Austin, TX, native power forward Greg Brown set for April 24 to watch. Landing Brown could dramatically reconfigure the outlook for Longhorn men’s basketball for the season that is to come.
The top two ranked teams that NBC Sports had in their way-too-early top 25 poll were the Villanova Wildcats at the top followed by the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The other two teams that were ranked behind Baylor, and would round out the top five, included the No. 4 Creighton Blue Jays and the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers.