The Texas Longhorns play the first of four games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. CT on the Longhorn Network in head coach Shaka Smart's Erwin Center debut against the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders.
The regional game of the tournament should provide a valuable tune-up opportunity for Smart's team as the Horns try to bounce back from the ugly, abysmal performance in Shanghai against the Huskies. At least Bill Walton won't be able to wage an all-out assault on the eardrums of Texas fans this evening, though an Austin infomercial would probably be a little more palatable.
Texas leads the all-time series against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 3-0, with the last win a 76-70 triumph in early 2010. There's also a long history of success in home openers that Smart hopes to sustain, as the Horns have won 13 straight and have only lost five openers in the history of the Erwin Center, which dates to 1977. The last loss in a home opener came in 2001.
The Islanders enter the game at 1-1 with a win over Our Lady of the Lake and a 25-point loss to Texas A&M, the Wednesday opponent for Texas in the Bahamas. Junior forward Rashawn Thomas is the leading scorer so far at 19 points per game and he'll test the deep Longhorns frontcourt with his burly 6'8, 250-pound frame. After Thomas, senior forward Bryce Douvier is pouring in buckets at a rate of 17 points per game. A strong rebounder as well, Douvier can stretch the floor to provide space for Thomas to work, as he hit over 40 percent of his three pointers last season.
Most mid-major programs can't compete with the height of the Texas frontcourt, but with Thomas and Douvier in the starting lineup and 6'11 Victor Juriceck and 6'8 Dale Francis coming off the bench, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has a much better shot of competing in that area than most of the mid-major opponents the Horns will face during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Through two games, the Islanders are right around the Division I average in adjusted efficiency on the offensive and defensive ends, according to kenpom.com, but the turnover rate is high at 19 percent and the team isn't cleaning up particularly well on the offensive glass in grabbing only 30.3 percent of their own misses. A bigger concern for head coach Willis Wilson is the fact that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is struggling to collect defensive rebounders, so that may be an area where the height of length of Texas can gain an advantage.
Based on the opener, the biggest keys for Texas are taking better shots and continuing to adjust to the new officiating directives to avoid so many fouls.