Rodney Terry and the No. 21 Texas Longhorns are back at the Moody Center on Friday for the penultimate non-conference game of the 2023-24 season as they host the UNC Greensboro Spartans.
Dating back to the opening of the Moody Center last season, Texas has only lost one game in its friendly confines with a 7-0 record this season with an average margin of 22.9 points, largely a function of an exceptionally weak non-conference schedule that currently ranks No. 318 nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric despite games against No. 1 UConn and No. 13 Marquette.
Given the strength of the Big 12, that might not necessarily be concerning in a vacuum with the national perception from AP writers still strong enough to slot into the Top 25, but an early Bracketology this week from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Longhorns on the bubble as a No. 11 seed and facing a play-in game as one of the last four in. To put it bluntly, the blowout loss to the Golden Eagles, the 10-point loss to the Huskies, and a narrow win over the 5-7 Cardinals thanks to a last-second shot from Max Abmas don’t reflect well on an NCAA Tournament resume that has otherwise received almost no boost from the scheduling decisions made by Texas.
Compared to a recent opponent like Houston Christian, ranked No. 357 in the country by KenPom.com, UNC Greensboro represents a significant step up in competition as the No. 138 team nationally with the No. 116 offense and No. 181 defense. Against a better schedule than the Horns have faced, the Spartans are 9-3 thanks to two SEC opponents.
Notably, Greensboro went into Fayetteville and beat then-No. 14 Arkansas 78-72 in mid-November as the Razorbacks shot 17.4 percent from three and only secured six offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, Greensboro made 48.1 percent from the floor, led by 23 points from guard Keyshuan Langley, who hit 5-of-8 three-point attempts, and 17 points from forward Mikael Brown-Jones.
Averaging 19.4 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game, the 6’8, 220-pound Jones leads the Spartans in both categories with Langley adding 14.3 points per game and his twin brother, Kobe, also averaging double-digit scoring. As a team, Greensboro is dangerous from the three-point line, hitting at 39.5 percent on the season while shooting 47.9 percent overall.
Fortunately for Texas, senior forward Dylan Disu is back and playing well after recovering from the foot injury that ended his remarkable postseason run, averaging 14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.5 apg and 2.0 bpg in 21.3 mpg during his first two games back, converting 9-of-17 (.529) field goals, including his lone three-point attempt, and 9-of-9 free throws.
Sophomore forward Dillon Mitchell is also playing at a high level with three consecutive double-doubles, reaching double digits in rebounds for five straight games, a stretch during which he is averaging 11.6 ppg and 11.2 rpg while hitting 60.5 percent (23-38) from the floor.
With the offensive profile of the Spartan, the concern for the Longhorns is at the defensive end of the court, where Terry’s team now ranks No. 64 nationally in adjusted efficiency, a steep drop on that end of the court after finishing last season No. 13.
How to watch
TV: Longhorn Network
Time: 7:00 p.m. Central
Odds: Texas is a 15.5-point favorite, according to Draftkings.
Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.