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Texas Longhorns basketball season starts off with “Texas Tip-Off”

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The intrasquad scrimmage starts at 7 PM CDT, and airs on the Longhorn Network

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NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Texas
Jeff is looking forward to watching Tevin Mack play.
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

For the second year in a row, Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns will make an early public appearance in Gregory Gym. A year ago, the Longhorns scrimmaged in front of a full house. This year they do it again, and those of us who cannot get to the event are able to join in by watching on the Longhorn Network at 7 PM CDT.

The event last season revolved around a scrimmage played between a more or less evenly-divided squad. We covered that event here last season, and some of the insights we picked up while watching it turned out to be relevant over the course of the season.

As I prepare to watch tonight’s exhibition, there are several questions that I am eager to try to start answering. In no particular order, here is what is on my mind:

What does Tevin Mack look like?

It is frequently said that the biggest improvement that happens for a college basketball player usually takes place between the first and second year. This isn’t always the case, of course — everyone develops at their own pace — but it is true often enough that I am very curious to get a good look at the Texas sophomores. And I am more curious about Tevin Mack than anyone else.

If I was to sum up Mack’s freshman year succinctly, I would go with this: he showed flashes of tremendous ability but often seemed just a bit out of sync with the rest of what was going on. He was frequently rushing just a little to much, missing the proper balance of aggression and control that lies at the heart of basketball.

This gives me a lot of hope for him, because he strikes me as the sort of player who just needed a little time to get used to the college game, and perhaps then an off-season for things to coalesce, before his obvious talents would allow him to shine. There aren’t any other players on this team that combine his particular combination of gifts, which are perfectly suited to getting buckets.

So, is Mack ready to shine?

What will Mareik Isom’s role be?

Everyone will get the chance to play during the scrimmage, and there is a reasonably good chance that 6-9 graduate transfer Mareik Isom will get to play a lot. I want to see how he fits in to what Texas is doing and try to figure out how much of Connor Lammert’s production he is likely to be able to replace. We know Isom can shoot the ball; he will perhaps be the best three point threat on the team. What I will be looking to see is how many of the other jobs Lammert handled — passing and decision making on offense, rebounding and helping to keep the back line strong on defense — that Isom will be able to fill. As we point out in the soon to be released Smart Texas Basketball, Isom is vying for playing time at one of the most important positions in Shaka Smart’s preferred style of offense.

What do the Texas freshmen look like, and how much will they be ready to contribute early in the season?

As our founder Peter Bean might say, you need to see guys in the gym playing against D-I competition to really get that first feeling for what they will be like. No matter how much I may have watched Jarrett Allen play on video — and I broke down those FIBA U18 games with an attention level comparable to (DATED REFERENCE WARNING) Tipper Gore parsing Judas Priest lyrics — I haven’t yet watched him on a court playing against grownups who are also high major college basketball players. So we will get a first look at that.

We will also get a look at Andrew Jones, who is by default going to be asked to do a lot for this team. Jones is going to be critically important as one of the primary playmakers for Texas; if he struggles early adapting to the college game, the Longhorns are likely to struggle right along with him.

And along with Jones, we will also get to see James Banks, who I have watched play a fair amount, and Jacob Young, who I have hardly seen play at all.

Is Kerwin Roach ready to destroy everyone?

We put Kerwin Roach on the cover of Smart Texas Basketball and featured him in our first published excerpt for a reason; we think he has a decent shot of being one of the best players in the Big 12. His freshman year was marked by substantial improvement over the course of the season. He is one of those players who makes me regret the fact that “elite athleticism” has become a trite cliche, because he is a player for whom the term would actually be useful if it had not already been sapped of all of its verve and meaning.

But again, everyone develops at their own pace. So where is Roach today in his personal journey?

The season is getting close

I approach every college basketball season with a mix of excitement and dread. But today all I have is excitement. Tonight we get our first look at the 2016-2017 iteration of Texas Longhorns basketball.

Do you want to know more about Texas Basketball? Do you want to be ahead of the curve? Do you want to impress your friends with your knowledge and general good taste? Smart Texas Basketball 2016 is just days away from releasing and is available for pre-order now from Amazon and iTunes.