Shockingly the 2006-2007 college basketball season begins today. There are no games scheduled but Friday Oct. 13th marks the first day of practice for teams across the country including for the Horns. Today also starts the basketball coverage on BON. Football will remain our primary focus but look for regular basketball stories in the weeks ahead.
We begin with a look at the program as a whole with some quick facts and early thoughts.
First year of Basketball: 1906
All Time Record: 1,507-918 (.621)
Head Coach: Rick Barnes (heading into 9th season)
Coach Barnes has an overall record at Texas of 191-76 (.715) and has led the Horns to eight straight NCAA appearances including a Final Four appearance in 2003. Under Barnes in the Big 12 conference, Texas has finished first or tied for first twice, second or tied for second four times, tied for third once, and tied for fifth once.
Overall 30-7, (13-3 in Big 12, tied for 1st place with Kansas)
NCAA Tournament: Lost to LSU 70-60 in overtime in the Elite Eight.
Starters Returning: Zero
Lamarcus Aldridge, PJ Tucker, and Daniel Gibson all left school early for the NBA. We also lost seniors Kenton Paulino and Brad Buckman.
Texas also loses Mike Williams (transfer) and Dion Dowell (mid season transfer) from last year's team.
Returning Players: Four
AJ Abrams (5'10" 155) returns as the most experience Horn at point guard. Connor Atchley (6'9" 225) also played some valuable minutes at center during the second half of the year. Craig Winder (6'2" 190) and JD Lewis (6'1" 180) are back as shooting guards as well. Neither were significant contributors last season and won't be asked to do much more this season.
New Faces: Seven.
This year's freshman class is the best ever at Texas and was ranked as the #3 class in the nation. It is led by three McDonald's All Americans: Kevin Durant (6'9" 210), Damion James (6'7" 225), and DJ Augustin (5'11" 180). Also joining the Texas frontcourt this season are Matt Hill (6'9" 230) and Dexter Pittman (6'10" 300-370). Completing the class are a pair of guards, Harrison Smith (6'2" 185) and Justin Mason (6'2" 185).
The strength of this class cannot be overstated. Durant was rated as the second best high school players in the country last season. If not for NBA rule changes, Durant would have been a top 5 selection in last year's draft. James was a late surprise for Coach Barnes. Damion was released from his commitment to Oklahoma after Kelvin Samson bolted for Indiana and chose the Horns over the summer. He was the top rated played in Texas last season. Augustin is a transplanted Texan from New Orleans who played his senior season in Sugar Land, TX. He is a pass first, shoot second point guard who hopes to follow in TJ Ford's footsteps.
This is going to be a fun and, at times, frustrating season to be a Texas basketball fan. The Horns are absolutely loaded with talent, albeit young talent. Barnes could realistically start five freshmen at any point this season. There is no doubt that we will have some growing pains this season. Texas could easily drop a few winnable games before conference season.
I expect Durant and James to terrorize opponents for at least a season. Also look for the Horns to play more up tempo this season. We have some holes at center and power forward but are loaded at guard. Barnes will be smart to take advantage of Augustin's and Abrams' abilities in transition. Both will have plenty of opportunities for assists with competent finishers running the floor.
If this team can gel quickly, look out. This year's team looks very similar to the Kansas Jayhawks last season: tons of talent that didn't come together perfectly until the second half of the year. Barnes' teams historically are strong defensively and somewhat stagnant on offense. If Barnes can mold this group of young talent into strong defensive players, he may just be able to get out of the way and watch them succeed on the offensive end. Come February and March, Texas could easily be one of the most dangerous teams in the country. I can't wait!
First Scrimmage: Oct. 31st Lenior-Rhyne 7 PM Erwin Center.
First Game: Nov. 9th Alcorn State 8:30 PM Erwin Center.