After winning their first NCAA tournament game since 2014 against 11-seed Virginia Tech, the Texas Longhorns dropped their Round of 32 match-up to 3-seed Purdue. What was your biggest takeaway from Chris Beard’s first March Madness with Texas?
Nik Patel (@NothingbutNik) - I don’t think the Big 12 was nearly as competitive this year as it has been before, so I am starting with their underwhelming performance in the Big 12 tournament, and their blown game against TCU. This was a symptom of the defensive collapses Texas has had too many times this season. Usually, the worst teams in March Madness teams have defensive streakiness and Beard hasn’t quite achieved that high caliber defense with Texas yet. I’m happy to see Texas finally make it past the first round but I definitely had higher hopes for Beard’s first season.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I think I might have the most optimistic view of the whole group. In spite of having one of their characteristic offensive droughts in both games, Texas was able to battle back and play competitively. Texas was far from optimized based on what Chris Beard wants to do with his personnel, but they managed to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, which hadn’t happened since Rick Barnes. That is obviously not the standard for the Longhorns, but for a team that 12 months ago only had Brock Cunningham on the roster my takeaway is that Texas is probably on the right trajectory.
Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - I didn’t have this Texas team making it past the first round, so they surpassed my expectations just a bit. I was happy to see that the team showed up and competed hard in both games despite being outmanned by Purdue and the refs being very proactive with the whistles. If Beard can get some more offensive firepower onto the roster this program will have a chance to take the next step.
Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) - Really, it’s the same takeaway that I had during the regular season – Texas needs to get bigger and more athletic to be able to beat a team like Purdue. Had the Longhorns won that game, they might have gotten to the Final Four, but any long run like that was always going to be difficult because they were likely to come up against a team they just matched up with extremely poorly. And that happened quickly thanks to the loss in the Big 12 Tournament.
Looking ahead to 2022-23, the Horns are going to add a pair of 5-stars in Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris plus 4-star Rowan Brumbaugh. Are you hopeful for next season? Or treading lightly?
Nik - Texas has churned out amazing centers for the past few years, all with amazing size and athleticism. Looking at Mitchell and other possible returners, the hope is Beard can create amazing defenders at all positions and utilize their builds. Brumbaugh is on the bigger end for a point guard and Beard could develop him into a real disruptor. I’ve been able to see Morris play in person, he has a knack for getting to the rim and is incredibly explosive. I think the talent has been effectively recruited and now it’s up to Beard to elevate them to the next level.
Gerald - I think it’s too early to call, especially because there are still a few key pieces that are still in play as far as transfers and potentially adding another member of the recruiting class. I think Texas will benefit greatly from having a more pure point guard in Morris, especially if Carr decides to make his way back to the Forty Acres. I think Texas needs a
Daniel - Treading lightly for sure. I think expectations got a little out of whack heading into the season based on what Beard was able to do via the recruiting trail and transfer portal. I want to see how things play out on the court before getting too high or too low with the team moving forward and see how the staff adjusts after year one.
Wescott - For me, it’s too early to have an opinion. Christian Bishop is coming back, but there are also four other players who still have decisions to make about using their extra season of eligibility. Depending on how those choices shake out, Beard will then know how many spots he needs to fill in the transfer portal. I do think those three signees will address some key areas of need – Morris makes Texas much faster at guard in the halfcourt and in the open court, Mitchell provides a massive injection of athleticism on the wing, and Brumbaugh should be a consistent facilitator. And, of course, Bishop brings some toughness and high-level offensive rebounding ability.
This week, football kicked off spring practice with some fresh faces on campus including Quinn Ewers. What positional battles are paying close attention to ahead of the spring game?
Nik - I am interested to see whether Isaiah Neyor claims the second receiver position. His catching ability with deep 50/50 balls boosts his favorability, but Dixon and Washington are still in the running to lock up that spot. On the defensive side, we know that Overshown will be leading the linebacker group. Now it’s a question of who the mike LB spot goes to. Will it be Brockermeyer, Ford or Harris? I think the answer is largely dependent on who is most athletic to play an impactful role in coverage.
Gerald - Texas needed to get better in the secondary in a hurry. With the addition of Ryan Watts from the transfer portal, as well as signing Terrance Brooks and Jaylon Gilbeau in the 2022 class, I want to see if Texas can find a way to be more physical in coverage and avoid some of the killer coverage busts they saw a year ago. Unlike in the trenches, you can see a high-ceiling kid come in and play at some of the skill positions as a freshman, so hopefully we could see that with Texas at a position of need.
Daniel - Quarterback is the obvious pick since so much hinges on it, but I’m going to be paying close attention to linebacker spot. That is still an area of concern for me due to the fact that it lacks quality depth. I think the staff would like to add a transfer body at this position and I can’t blame them. Jaylan Ford and DeMarvion Overshown are your two top dogs playing off the ball and after that, you have a lot of unproven players and inexperience.
Wescott - Obviously, the quarterback competition is one that stands out, but I’ll also be watching to see how Andrej Karic and Hayden Conner play along the offensive line as the likely new starters, as well as nickel and safety. With Anthony Cook moving to safety, does Jerrin Thompson take over at nickel? Who plays next to Cook at safety?
After dropping three straight in South Carolina, Texas baseball rebounded with a sweep against Incarnate Word and a win over Central Arkansas on Tuesday. Do you take more away from the tough road trip? Or from the past four games?
Nik - I take more away from the road trip and the lessons learned. Texas really had to find its rhythm and its most consistent players throughout the stretch. Tristan Stevens, Justin Eckhardt, and Andre Duplantier II all went through a whirlwind of starting innings through the losses. Texas’ fielding errors allowed more runs and they tightened up against weaker opponents after. We saw the coaching adjustments made in the pitching lineup and it showed through their home wins. I am eager to see if they can keep up this level of play when they’re back on the road against Tech.
Gerald - The tough road trip is closer to the competition Texas will take on if they are going to meet their season goals, so that definitely feels more indicative of the mood we should have. That being said, figuring out who your midweek and Sunday starters are after losing a pitcher that would be the ace on any other squad is a positive development for Texas. The bats definitely seem like they are more alive than they were at times on the road trip as well, so I think coming out of the next few weeks of conference play will really help observers calibrate for the rest of the year.
Daniel - I give the team credit for finding its way back to the win column over the past four games, but ultimately they are going to have to continue to prove themselves against quality opponents like South Carolina. I’m concerned about the long term outlook for the starting pitching after Tanner Witt was shut down for the year. Someone is going to have to step up and at least be serviceable consistently if this team wants to make a deep run in the postseason.
Wescott - Given the quality of competition in the last four games, I look more towards the road trip for information about the current state of this team. I imagine that no longer being ranked No. 1 has taken some pressure off this group, but I think it was a heavy burden during that poor stretch of play, especially on the road where opposing fans could make it more difficult. More than just hostile environments, though, it was clear that opposing teams were bringing a lot of intensity to those games and Texas didn’t always handle it well. Getting better performances from Skyler Messinger and Mitchell Daly has helped the team recently, but there are still some big question marks about Lucas Gordon’s consistency, Andre Duplantier’s ability to contribute, and whether Justin Eckhardt can become a reliable fourth starter.