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No. 5 Texas hosts Houston Baptist in Chris Beard’s debut

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The Horns open the final season at the Erwin Center against an opponent projected as one of the worst in Division I this year.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Abilene Christian at Texas Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Whew. Finally.

In the midst of the Texas Longhorns football program’s four-game losing streak, its worst since 2010, basketball is here as new head coach Chris Beard’s team tips off on Tuesday at against the Houston Baptist Huskies in the sendoff season for the Erwin Center.

In the second matchup between the two programs, No. 5 Texas enters as heavy favorites against an opponent projected as one of the worst programs in Division I basketball — the Huskies went 6-19 last season and start the 2021-22 campaign ranked No. 345 out of 358 teams by KenPom.com, which projects a 93-59 win for the Longhorns.

KenPom.com doesn’t expect head coach Ron Cottrell’s team to do anything well, projecting a really bad offense and an exceptionally bad defense, but Houston Baptist will play at a high tempo after ranking 18th in that category last season. Opponents produced steals on 12.3 percent of Husky possessions in 2020-21 and turnovers on 22.6 percent of their possessions. So expect an up-and-down game with plenty of opportunities for Texas to show off in the open court after producing 17 steals and forcing 25 turnovers in the exhibition game against Texas Lutheran.

Sophomore guard Za-Ontay Boothman is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.2 points per game and was a high-usage player last season taking nearly 30 percent of the team’s shots, but failing to convert them with any level of efficiency.

For Texas, expect the same starting lineup as in the exhibition game — senior guard Marcus Carr, senior guard Andrew Jones, senior guard Courtney Ramey, senior forward Timmy Allen, and senior forward Christian Bishop. The defensive presence of Bishop earns him the nod over junior forward Tre Mitchell, who can provide a scoring punch off the bench at all three levels and should be particularly effective in the low post against Houston Baptist.

In an attempt to build some excitement on campus, Beard has secured permission to throw a party at the Tower if students fill their 1,041 seats for the game.

Texas rarely loses season openers, winning 18 of the last 19, 19 straight at the Erwin Center, and 100 of 115 in school history. Don’t expect that to change on Tuesday, so whether this group can gel quickly won’t start becoming apparent until Texas travels to Spokane on Saturday to face No. 1 Gonzaga.

How to Watch:

TV: Longhorn Network

Time: Approximately 8 p.m. Central

Radio: Visit Texassports.com for affiliates

Online Streaming: WatchESPN

Odds: The Longhorns are are a 37.5-point favorite at DraftKings. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.