The No. 18 Texas Longhorns open the 2023-24 season, the first full year under head coach Rodney Terry, with a Monday night matchup against the Incarnate Word Cardinals in Austin at the Moody Center.
Texas has won 21 straight home openers and the expectation is to extend that streak again on Monday — KenPom.com ranks Incarnate Word as the No. 355 out of 362 teams in Division I thanks to projections that have the Cardinals as equally bad on both ends of the floor. Last year, the Longhorns went 16-1 in the Moody Center in its inaugural season.
Last season, UIW went 12-19 overall and 6-12 in the Southland Conference, resulting in the termination of fifth-year head coach Carson Cunningham and the hire of Central Michigan associate head coach Shane Heirman. The team’s leading scorer, guard Jonathon Cisse, transferred to Texas Southern after averaging 16.6 points per game. Only seven games into last season, the second-leading scorer, guard Charlie Yoder, left the team and transferred to Saint Francis. Heirman was able to retain guard Trey Miller and forward Davante Dennis, both part-time starters last season, while adding nine new players, including guard TJ Ford Jr., in a group that featured six transfers and sharpshooting Brazilian forward Breno Silva.
Experience is an asset for this Texas team with four players who have appeared in at least 100 career games and five players who have already earned their undergraduate degrees. The roster includes 12 players with previous college experience who have combined for 762 games played and 496 career starts, including Oral Roberts transfer guard Max Abmas, the NCAA active leader in scoring with 2,562 points, who will make his regular-season debut for Texas.
Virginia transfer forward Kadin Shedrick, the team’s tallest player at 6’11, could also make his debut after spending most of the offseason rehabilitating from a shoulder injury before receiving clearance to practice last week.
“He’s a guy that brings a wealth of experience, won at the highest levels, been coached at the highest level by a very good coach already. He’s a guy that can communicate with our guys. We expect him to be a guy that talks a lot out there, especially on defense —we call him like an air traffic controller out there in terms of helping guys on that end of the floor,” said Terry last week. “Offensively, we think he could be a guy on right now who can give us a presence in the paint on hard duck-ins, that is good with his right- and left-handed hook. His range will continue to get get better as he continues to move forward in his recovery.”
Whether or not Shedrick plays in the opener, the emphasis for Texas is on establishing a defensive identity, unselfishness on offense, and overall team chemistry with seven new additions to the roster.
“Everything for us early in the season is going to be about trying to establish an identity of who we’re going to be. We strive really hard to be a team that plays really hard on defense, sit down trying to guard, try to really play unselfish and move the ball, to share the ball. And then pull for your teammates, team. That’s really, again, trying to be great teammates and pulling for other guys on your team to be successful,” said Terry.
Reducing turnovers is key, too, after 15 giveaways last Monday in an exhibition game against Division II St. Edward’s — there’s too much experience on this team to have so many careless plays offensively.
The two programs have met twice previously, with Longhorns notching a 78-73 win in 2016 and a much more comfortable 78-33 blowout in 2021.
How to watch:
TV: Longhorn Network
Time: 7:00 p.m. Central
Odds: The Longhorns are 31.5-point favorites at DraftKings.
Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.