Texas Hoops: Mold The Clay
Updated: Mar 23, 2022
Photo: Kevin Jairaj-USA Today Sports
It’s safe to say that the Chris Beard era has not lived up to the expectations many people had during the preseason. After landing 3 of the top 5 transfers according to ESPN’s rankings, adding others such as Dylan Disu, and returning players such as Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey the team was rated as the #5 ranked team in the preseason. Thus becoming a very popular national title pick. However, things have not gone as planned including losses in both of their biggest non conference games vs Gonzaga and Seton Hall. If you watch this team as much as I have, you will know that it hasn’t been easy. Despite the growing pains, the common theme for this team full of guys who have never played together is “Molding the clay.”
When I met the great Jon Rothstein before the season started, I asked him what he thought about Texas after visiting with them in the preseason. His answer: “Mold the clay.” What he meant by that was this is a cast of guys who have a ton of talent but needed to learn how to gel as a team. This was one of the most difficult feats that Beard had to deal with when he stepped foot on campus. With the transfer portal becoming such a popular resource for college coaches, Beard constructed a roster through it. As mentioned before, Coach Beard was able to receive commitments from some of the top transfers in the country. Beard did a great job instilling culture and having the guys spend a lot of time together off the floor.
Fast forward to November 12th, 2021 when the Texas Longhorns traveled to Spokane, Washington for a date with the number one Gonzaga Bulldogs. This was a tough spot for a team who was playing just their second game together. The final score did not reflect how the game was played and Gonzaga was virtually in control the entire game. I did not expect this team to really be that competitive due to the fact that Gonzaga was simply a better team. It was a good learning experience for a team and there were many outcomes that would help in the long run such as lineup configuration. The Longhorns took care of the rest of their non-con games before a matchup with the Seton Hall Pirates.
Seton Hall was one of the surprise teams in the early college basketball season after they went into Ann Arbor and knocked off then #4 Michigan. The game against Texas was the first big home game of the season for the Pirates and the second true road test for the Horns. After trading buckets back and forth to begin the game, Texas played some of their best basketball of the young season during a 10 minute stretch of the first half. However, a late three by Alex Yetna tied the score up going into halftime. Similar to the first half, the teams traded buckets to start the second half but ultimately Texas did not score in the last 8 minutes of the game and Seton Hall prevailed. Thus, making the Horns 0-2 in games against power conference teams.
Texas played a very weak non conference schedule outside of those two games and their best win entering Big 12 play was a neutral site win over Stanford in Vegas. This team did not have much of an identity outside of being strong defensively. To be quite frank, that had to do a lot with the lack of good opponents and Beard’s teams always being strong defensively since being at Arkansas Little Rock. The team maintained a top 25 ranking and opened up Big 12 play at home vs West Virginia on New Years Day. With COVID hampering the West Virginia team, two of their best players Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien were out. Texas played who was in front of them which is just the world we live in nowadays and beat the Mountaineers by 15. Texas controlled the entirety of the game and got 20 points from Marcus Carr, 15 from Courtney Ramey, and 14 from Andrew Jones. The team also forced 20 West Virginia turnovers in the win and despite the short handed roster from the Mountaineers, Texas looked really good.
Following that victory, Texas took care of Kansas State on the road while benefiting from their opponent dealing with COVID issues. Next up were the Oklahoma State Cowboys who despite not being eligible for the 2022 NCAA tournament, are extremely well coached and can defend the hell out of their opponent. That is exactly what they did. Oklahoma State was too athletic for the Horns and Texas fell to the Cowboys. Texas did not look very good and only scored 51 points the entire game. They rebounded the following Tueaday at home vs OU and then went on to lose their next two including a loss at home to Kansas State.
This led a lot of people to believe that Texas was a fraud team especially with the job Mark Adams has done at Texas Tech. The Longhorns turned the ball over way too many times in their losses and even did so in a win recently vs Oklahoma State at home. Despite the lapses and tough transition with a completely new team, Texas had it’s best performance last week at TCU. Texas won by 23 points on the road and really started to look like a team that is learning to play together. Timmy Allen, Marcus Carr, Courtney Ramey, and Andrew Jones all scored in double figures and the Longhorns held TCU to 50 points in the game. The stat that stood out to me the most was 21 assists as a team. They rebounded the ball well and even had 14 offensive boards to show for it. Texas had not looked this cohesive on offense at any point prior to TCU and that is certainly encouraging going into a really tough 4 game stretch. The team has Texas Tech on the road (which is going to be a crazy game), Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor on the road. We will know a lot more about the Horns after these next 4 games. However, it all goes back to the common theme of the article, this team must mold the clay and continue playing together and working off last night's stellar performance. It also helps that 3 of the 5 games will be at home but as we know no game is easy in the Big 12. I’m excited to see what is in store over the next couple weeks. Hook ‘em!