No. 18 Texas basketball kicks off its 2023-24 campaign on Nov. 6 inside the Moody Center against the Incarnate Word Cardinals. Year 1 of the Rodney Terry era tips off at 7 p.m. CT and will air on Longhorn Network.
The Horns hold the 2-0 head-to-head program record over Incarnate Word, including a convincing 78-33 win in 2021. That said, the Cardinals pushed Texas to the brink in 2016, with the Horns needing all of Kendal Yancy’s 19 points to escape with a 78-73 victory.
No opponent should ever be taken lightly. However, we are far more likely to see a lopsided score on Monday night than we are to look up in the second half to a one-possession game.
Incarnate Word was picked to finish last in the Southland Conference preseason poll. They are slotted at No. 351 in EvanMiya’s preseason ratings and No. 355 in KenPom’s. Texas opened up as a 30-point favorite over the Cardinals and should have no trouble handling an undermanned Incarnate Word squad.
The 40 minutes of play on Monday night will be much more “Texas vs. itself” than Texas vs. Incarnate Word. This game will allow Texas and its fans to see how this team executes in a live bullets scenario that will count toward its March Madness resume while fleshing out different lineup combinations and offensive sets.
I looked at five things Texas fans should watch for when the Horns take the court on Monday night.
Five things to watch as Texas basketball opens its season against Incarnate Word.
1. How does the backcourt of Max Abmas and Tyrese Hunter gel?
The talk of the offseason was the arrival of the nation’s active leading scorer, Max Abmas. The Dallas native was a 2x Summit Player of the Year, averaging 23.0/3.7/3.8 during his final three seasons at Oral Roberts. Less than a month after Abmas announced his intentions to transfer to the Forty Acres, Tyrese Hunter announced he would return for his junior season.
The duo of Abmas and Hunter will pace Texas basketball on both ends of the floor. They have a chance to be one of the best backcourts in the country. However, expect some growing pains as the two alpha guards learn to play next to each other.
Abmas dominated the ball while at ORU, holding a 28.5 percent usage rate over the last three seasons. Yes, the grad transfer is an able and willing passer, but how will he mesh alongside a future NBA guard in Hunter?
We saw Hunter and Marcus Carr’s on-court relationship evolve throughout the 2022/23 season, and when it looked good, it looked really good.
Monday night’s game against Incarnate Word will give us a chance to see how often each guy initiates the offense and how/where the shots are divvied out. I expect Abmas to control ~70%~ of the primary ball-handling responsibilities.