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The season concluded for the Texas Longhorn men’s basketball team last Saturday night after a 79-65 loss to the Michigan Wolverines in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
The Texas Longhorns Longhorns ran into a very talented Michigan squad that was absolutely on fire in the third round matchup. The Wolverines hit 14 threes and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc. Michigan only had four turnovers throughout the game, which prevented the Horns from getting any easy transition opportunities.
Texas trailed by 13 at the break and the Horns were down by as many as 18 points in the second half. The Longhorns went on a run and cut Michigan’s lead to six with eight minutes left. The Wolverines, however, responded with a 21-13 run to put the finishing touches on the Texas season.
The Horns shot just 37 percent from the game and only two players, Isaiah Taylor (22 points) and Martez Walker (14) finished in double figures for Texas. The Horns just weren’t able to establish their dominance down low and couldn’t stymie Michigan’s deep threats.
The loss gave Texas a 24-11 record to end the 2013-2014 season, a remarkable turnaround from the 16-18 campaign of last season.
The expectations going into the season were the lowest they’ve been in a long time here on the Forty Acres. After missing the NCAA tournament for the first time as Texas’s head coach, Rick Barnes was definitely on the hot seat and many thought he should have been fired following the conclusion of last season.
Not only did Texas finish the 2012-2013 with a sub-.500 record and a first round exit in the CBI tournament, the Horns also lost their top four scorers in the offseason. The Longhorns were projected to finish 8th in the Big 12 conference this season, ahead of only Texas Tech and TCU.
So how did the Horns respond to the preseason projections? Texas went 24-11 on the season, finished third place in the Big 12, moved up to No. 15 in the AP Top 25 rankings and won an NCAA tournament game as the 7 seed. Rick Barnes, you ask? He went on to win the Big 12 Coach of the Year award.
A couple of days ago, someone asked me to grade the season for the Texas Longhorns. I responded immediately with an “A plus.”
After missing the big dance for the first time in 17 years, I didn’t see any chance of the Horns bouncing back going into the season. The roster featured no seniors, one junior and a mix of freshmen and sophomores, the Big 12 conference was expected to be among the best in college basketball and the Longhorn recruiting class wasn’t highly touted at all.
If you had told me that Texas was going to win a tournament game in 2014, I would have laughed.
As the season progressed, the Longhorns showed some serious signs of being a legit team who had the ability to knock off any team in the country. The Longhorns won on the road at North Carolina and barely lost to a Michigan State team that many expect to be cutting down the nets in April.
The biggest statement of the season, however, came on Feb. 1 against the Kansas Jayhawks. The Longhorns had just cracked the top 25 and were welcoming one of the most talented teams in the country. The Horns dominated the Jayhawks from the opening tip, knocking off KU 81-69.
The Horns also picked up victories over tournament teams like Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor (twice) and Oklahoma State. Texas was nearly unbeatable at home, finished the season 16-2 at the Frank Erwin Center.
The struggles for this Texas team came away from Austin. The Longhorns were just 5-6 on the road and 3-3 in neutral-site games. While these numbers aren’t great, road woes can be expected for a young team. The Longhorns should be able to learn from this season’s road experience and improve next year away from home.
It’s tough to start looking ahead to next year just a week after the season ends, but this Texas basketball team has a lot to look forward to.
Everyone should be coming back next season and the Horns already have one top 100 recruit coming next year in Jordan Barnett. Texas also has a shot to land the No. 2 player in this year’s class, Myles Turner.
Every Longhorn showed tremendous signs of improvement throughout the season, and this year’s sophomore class showed that they can lead the team in the next couple of years. Big man Cameron Ridley polished his post game and started to look like a top ten recruit during Big 12 play. Javan Felix carried the Texas offense during dry stretches and Demarcus Holland played lock-down defense against some great players.
The freshman class made huge contributions this season, with Isaiah Taylor solidifying himself as the point guard of the future for Texas. Martez Walker found his shot down the stretch, and Kendal Yancy and Damarcus Croaker played important minutes for the Horns.
The only upperclassman on the team, Jonathan Holmes, led the Horns in scoring with 13 points per game and was second in rebounding at just over seven a game. Holmes hit some huge shots and made big plays all year long for the Horns. Having his senior leadership next season will be huge for the Longhorns.
Overall, the 2013-2014 season was a very successful one for the Texas Longhorns, especially when you take expectations into account. This team should be back and better than ever next season, and hopefully the Longhorns can improve on this season’s Round of 32 exit.