With the 2019-20 Texas Longhorns basketball season opening on Tuesday evening against the Northern Colorado Bears, here’s my five bold predictions for this upcoming season.
Here’s to an injury-free, fun-filled year of Texas basketball.
Texas secures 10+ wins throughout non-conference play
Road games at Purdue and Providence will be tough, but this team is more than capable of winning one of those two to reach the 10-win mark.
The early season tournament with Georgetown, Duke, and UCLA in New York should be fun. Under Smart, Texas has played well against top competition in these tournaments every year. I’d expect a win over Georgetown and a strong showing against Duke in the tournament championship on this trip.
Matt Coleman becomes a first-team All-Big 12 selection at the end of the season
Throughout the majority of his first two years in Austin, Coleman has been dealt with some unfortunate roster luck alongside of him. With Andrew Jones back, and guards Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres returning, Texas finally has a solidified backcourt under Coleman.
We’ve seen flashes of Coleman’s greatness in the past, but now with multiple shooters/ball-handlers around him and a defensive system in place, this is his year to thrive as the engine of the offense.
1st-Team All-Big 12: G Devon Dotson (Kansas), G Matt Coleman (Texas), G Desmond Bane (TCU), F Tristan Clark (Baylor), C Udoka Azubuike (Kansas)
The hires of former Michigan assistant coach Luke Yaklich and former Kansas strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy pay off significantly
Losing former assistant coaches Mike Morrell and Darrin Horn to head coaching roles in each of these past two seasons may turn out to be a major blessing in disguise for Smart. Last season, the hire of Iowa State assistant Neill Berry helped transform the Longhorns into a top-30 offensive team last season in KenPom.com’s efficiency rankings. And while Horn played a prominent role in developing top big men at Texas, Smart brought in one of the game’s brightest defensive-minded coaches in Luke Yaklich to replace him.
Coming from a blue-blood program and coaching staff, Yaklich is one of those coaches who lives in the film room and constantly studies the game of the basketball. His aggressive defensive style of play along with his attention to fundamentals will help transform the way Texas plays. Yaklich’s presence on the defensive side will help take a lot of pressure off Smart as the head coach — he can now completely focus on his offense and big-picture program management without having to worry about the defense.
Along with the hiring of Yaklich, Smart also hired one of the game’s top strength coaches from Kansas. Hudy’s 15-year track record at Kansas speaks for itself — she was the National College Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 2013 and was a critical factor in Bill Self’s success in Lawrence.
While this may be a not-so bold take, credit Smart for making the right hires when he needed it most. Now in his fifth year, he’s finally built up the right staff around him to produce greater results.
Texas makes NCAA Tournament... wins first tournament game under Smart
After heartbreak in years one and three at the NCAA Tournament, this upcoming fifth year will be the charm for Smart and the Longhorns. Texas will earn anywhere from a No. 4 through No. 6 seed on Selection Sunday and will finally advance past the Round of 64 for the first time under Smart.
Hometown five-star talent Greg Brown signs with Texas following a successful season
It’ll be tough to out-recruit Kentucky and John Calipari for Brown, but the Texas play on the hardwood will likely determine if the five-star talent remains home or not.