As part of their summer previews for college basketball, ESPN recently published two articles over the Big 12. Texas seems to be the consensus Wild Card of the conference. Here's the key sections from each article.
From the Texas section of the Best Case/Worst Case article, which doesnt seem to acknowledge the departure of Varez Ward:
Best case: Let's all be honest and say we have no clue where to go with this one. Predicting a team based on talent is easy. Predicting how that talent will mesh together -- and how all the little things basketball players do to make each other better or worse will balance out -- is much more difficult. Based on the former, Texas should be a Big 12 title contender. Based on the latter, who knows? The Longhorns will need to incorporate talented shooting guard Cory Joseph into an already overloaded backcourt, while Tristan Thompson will have to play well with small forward Jordan Hamilton, who could be primed for a breakout season. If Barnes can put the puzzle pieces together -- he couldn't in 2009-10 -- there's no reason for this Texas team to languish in the middle of the conference for another season.
Worst case: Worst case is pretty much what happened last season. The team has talent, but for whatever reason that talent doesn't jell, and what looks on paper to be one of the better teams in the country -- both on the roster and in tempo-free reports -- ends up with a mediocre finish and a handful of NBA draft defections. Weak.
The Summer Shootaround section is a great early look at the conference this year. I wont blockquote all the Texas stuff (since y'all should go read the whole thing), but here is something I found interesting. I dont remember seeing this quote anywhere, but it's a potential explanation for last year.
3. Can Rick Barnes put it together? Last season was not Barnes' finest. The Texas Longhorns were one of the nation's most talented teams, and for the first half of the season they looked it. Then, inexplicably, the wheels came off, and the Horns went from being the undefeated No. 1 team in the country to a 9-7 Big 12 finish. Somewhere in there, Barnes admitted to an ESPN The Magazine reporter that he was less concerned with winning a national championship than with getting players to the NBA. Whoops. This season's Longhorns are nearly as talented as last season's team. Barnes put together another impressive recruiting class that features two of the best recruits you'll see anywhere in forward Tristan Thompson and guard Cory Joseph. So talent is not the problem. Whether Barnes can find a way to get that talent to co-exist -- to function as more than the sum of its impressive parts, especially in the backcourt -- will say a lot about whether UT's headman is a college basketball coach or a talent scout with nicer suits.