Texas Basketball: Analyzing 3 difference-makers that are off to hot starts

Tyrese Hunter, Texas basketball Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrese Hunter, Texas basketball Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3
Marcus Carr, Texas basketball
Marcus Carr, Texas basketball /

Through the first half dozen games of the season, head coach Chris Beard and No. 2 ranked Texas basketball is off to about as good of a start as possible. Texas has already defeated two top-seven-ranked teams in the first month of the regular season.

On Nov. 16, Beard and the Longhorns knocked off head coach Mark Few and the No. 2 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs at home at the brand-new Moody Center by a convincing final score of 93-74. That was the first big win of the season for the Longhorns.

And then, Texas got the best of a very formidable No. 7 ranked Creighton Blue Jays team at home at the Moody Center on Dec. 1 by the final score of 72-67. The win over Creighton was definitely more nerve-wracking for the Texas faithful than the triumph over Gonzaga was a couple of weeks prior.

Texas can’t rest on its laurels for too long, though, as there is another big game on the horizon on Dec. 6. In just a couple of days, the Longhorns will face head coach Brad Underwood and the No. 16 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini.

Illinois is another battle-tested team that already had some challenges to work through this season, including a tough five-point loss to the No. 22 Maryland Terrapins on Dec. 2.

Tyrese Hunter and the Texas basketball players that are making a huge difference early this season

Here’s a look at a breakdown of the three hot Longhorns players that have emerged as real difference-makers out of the gates this season.


Marcus Carr, G

One of the most experienced returning players for the Longhorns this season was the two-time transfer guard and super senior Marcus Carr.

I don’t actually think that there is a returning player for the Longhorns this season that is adjusting better to a new role than Carr has. Carr has gone from the primary initiator and facilitator in this offense to more of a secondary playmaker and shot-creator.

And wow has he found his game in this newer role this season. It looks like Carr is able to play more freely and take better shots knowing that he isn’t going to have to facilitate the entire offense. He has more room to find his open looks and more open lanes to get to the rim.

Carr has become a much more efficient shooter and a better decision-maker on offense this season, hence his year-over-year improvement in true shooting percentage from 51.3 last season to 55.4 this year.

Simultaneously, the fact that Carr has a more capable supporting cast around him also means that he can more effectively spread the ball around when the opportunity comes about.

Carr is eons ahead of where he was at this time last season in terms of his ability to efficiently distribute the ball around on offense. Just look at his assist percentage compared to his turnover percentage year-over-year.

  • 2021-22: 23.0 assist %, 14.5 turnover %
  • 2022-23: 24.6 assist %, 7.7 turnover %

It’s worth noting that Carr has essentially cut his turnover percentage in half while improving his assist percentage and having a higher usage rate. This overall improvement in efficiency is a big reason why Texas’ entire offense is performing at a much higher level out of the gates this season.

Texas ranked 115th in the country last season in terms of offensive rating, at 105.9. Through six games this season, Texas ranks 54th in the country with a 112.6 offensive rating.

Moreover, Carr also deserves credit for his continued solid play on the defensive end of the floor. Carr was a good one-on-one defender last season. But he’s become even more disruptive on the perimeter and better on the defensive glass, nearly doubling his defensive rebounding percentage this season and more than doubling his steal percentage year-over-year.

As a result, Carr’s defensive box plus/minus has skyrocketed to a career-best 7.0, which is good for second in the Big 12 this season and 13th in the country.