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A Burnt Orange Nation roundtable: Texas basketball is here!

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Basketball season is finally upon us and we wanted to talk about a small handful of topics for your enjoyment.

Oklahoma v Texas Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Hey, hey ... basketball season is here and even if for one night only, we’re here to convince you to fall in love with a Texas Longhorns sport that is played outside of DKR.

Shaka Smart’s second effort in Austin gets underway tonight against Incarnate Word, so in anticipation of a season that could literally be great, horrible or anything in between, a few of us here at Burnt Orange Nation decided to babble incoherently about a few things hoops related.

horn bullet

Texas lost a ton of talent and experience from last year’s team, but also added a fifth-ranked recruiting class and features three sophomores that look much improved. From a sheer talent standpoint, can Texas be better in March than it was last season?

Cody Daniel co-editor

I think this question depends on what kind of talent we’re talking about. Talent capable of competing at the DI level on a nightly basis? No, Texas has talent an obvious step back after losing so much proven productivity. Talent with realistic hopes of hearing their name called during the NBA Draft in the next year to two? Yes, I think guys like Jarrett Allen, Andrew Jones, Kerwin Roach Jr. and possibly even Eric Davis Jr. could all be playing basketball for money by the start of the 2018-19 season.

Jeff Haley basketball editor

I am going to be the negative one in this roundtable. I can tell that right away based on your first question. That is because my basic expectation is that this Texas team won’t be as good as the team from a season ago.

Texas has some good young players. This will be an interesting and fun team to watch. But most of the time when you replace 100 percent of your March starting lineup that contained four seniors and a first-team all-conference junior, you don’t improve.

Robert Larkin staff writer

In short, I believe that yes they can.

This Texas basketball team lost several key leaders in Isaiah Taylor, Cam Ridley, Prince Ibeh, and Javan Felix, but it may have upgraded talent-wise in several key positions. Andrew Jones, Jarrett Allen, and James Banks arguably have higher ceilings than those players from last year, but it’s a matter if they will gel before postseason play. I think the answer there is yes.

Combine these young prospects with the development of a strong sophomore class and Texas could be a formidable player down the line.

Jack Keyes staff writer

Texas will likely be better in March than it was last season, but I’m not so sure how much better Texas will be in November compared to last year. A relatively tame non-conference schedule points to the ‘Horns emerging with a solid record, but there’s a lot of areas where the team may struggle.

One thing I’m worried about is rebounding and the lack of big men depth — it would’ve been nice if transfer Dylan Osetkowski could’ve suited up for the ‘Horns this year. That said, I think this will be a team that can really gel and come together for a nice run in the month of madness.

horn bullet

The four-man Texas freshman class includes two All-Americans, a sharp-shooting guard from a basketball bloodline and a 6’10 bundle of energy. Which newcomer are you most excited to watch?

Cody Daniel co-editor

There's just something about Andrew Jones’ game that I love. He's confident, a high-level athlete, a gym rat and he seems up to the challenge of stepping into a leadership position in Isaiah Taylor's absence. At best, I think Jones is a two-and-done talent and I personally think he'll prove to be Texas' best player by the end of the season.

Jeff Haley basketball editor

Andrew Jones will be an entertaining basketball player to watch. He is the team’s best passer, can shoot, works well off the dribble, and is a creative open-court player.

Robert Larkin staff writer

Andrew Jones. Ever since I saw his high school film, I’ve loved his abilities. Like Jeff said, he’s an incredible passer for his age, shoots the ball well, and can create his own shot if need be. Kudos to Shaka Smart for recruiting him early and winning his services. I won’t be surprised to see Jones starting by conference play.

Jack Keyes staff writer

Jacob Young is definitely the player who intrigues me the most. As the least-heralded recruit entering an already crowded backcourt, I think a lot of people have underestimated the impact he can have on the season. He grew two inches over the summer, and notched a team high 21 points in Texas’ scrimmage against Angelo State.

He has a well-documented smooth stroke from three (he was 4-8 from three-point range in the exhibition), and is an underrated play maker. Maybe it’s because the guy already has a brother in the NBA, but Young appears to be already confident and poised at the college level, as if he’s been here before.

horn bullet

Jarrett Allen or James Banks: Which bro has the best fro?

Instagram: @coachshakasmart

Cody Daniel co-editor

Has any ‘fro ever been more perfect than Jarrett Allen’s? Maybe Beyonce’s in Austin Powers “Goldmember,” but even hers wasn’t masterfully complimented by a headband. James Banks may be well on his way to becoming the team’s vocal leader, but Allen’s fro does all the talking for him and it speaks volumes.

Jeff Haley basketball editor

How is this even up for debate? Jarrett Allen wins easily. His ‘fro is an almost perfect sphere that he meticulously maintains.

Robert Larkin - staff writer

I’ve seen Allen’s and that’s nothing to be messed with. Have to give him the edge.

Jack Keyes staff writer

In my opinion, Allen has a much more unique take on the ‘fro, sporting a rounded, classic look. Banks’ modern style resembles that of other players on the team — his haircut is actually pretty similar to that of Andrew Jones. I think Banks has more work to do on the ‘fro, but also a lot of untapped potential.

horn bullet

Without Isaiah Taylor, Texas will be point guard by committee. Will that be a recipe for success or disaster with two athletic combo guards sharing the ball?

Cody Daniel co-editor

I think the point guard by committee plan will provide flashes of brilliance and will leave Shaka Smart pulling his hair out (what hair?) just as often. Kerwin Roach Jr. and Andrew Jones will absorb the bulk of all handling duties and against lesser competition, they should be able to physically overwhelm other guards more often than not on both ends of the floor. But when Big 12 play begins and Texas meets teams like Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia, the lack of a pure, polished floor general will almost surely cost the 'Horns a few games.

Jeff Haley basketball editor

The idea of point guard by committee doesn’t scare me, simply because there was a time when basketball wasn’t concerned with point guards — people just called them “guards.”

But the thing about Taylor was that he and Javan Felix were really steady with the ball. That is what is going to be missed this season, as last year the single best thing that the Texas offense did was taking care of the rock. This team will turn the ball over more and will have to make up for that in other ways.

Robert Larkin staff writer

I think Taylor’s leadership and control of the offense will definitely be missed this season. Last year, he was excellent at controlling the pace in Shaka Smart’s offense and provided a presence that the ‘Horns will miss. We probably will see some growing pains to start the year.

However, I really think a guard by committee scenario could actually benefit the ‘Horns in some scenarios. Eric Davis, Kerwin Roach, and Andrew Jones all have the ability to bring the ball up the floor and utilize different styles of play, which could create opportunities against opposing point guards. This diverse skill set will present some matchup problems, and I am intrigued by it, for the time being.

Jack Keyes staff writer

I actually think that Isaiah Taylor returning would’ve been a detriment to the team this season. I genuinely don’t mean any disrespect by that — Taylor clearly had the most talent on the floor and led the ‘Horns to many victories due to his late game heroics. However, I’m much more excited to see plays drawn up for a multitude of youngsters with unique skill sets, than to see the team get comfortable simply giving Taylor the ball in the waning seconds of the shot clock.

Without Taylor’s speed to bail the team out at the end of an anemic possession, the Longhorns will be forced to be creative and find new playmakers to step up. Too many times last season, Taylor was relied upon to jack up a contested three with the shot-clock running down. I believe more guys are going to be called upon to make the big shot this year, and I think that can only make the team better.

horn bullet

What’s the over/under on how many opponents Kerwin Roach Jr. puts on a poster this season now that he’ll be on the court much more?

Cody Daniel co-editor

How many games does Texas play this season? 30, you say? On average, 10 guys might see action in the rotation in each game, or something like that, which means 300 people are in jeopardy of getting jumped over and/or dunked on. Is that too many? I know posters are pretty much a thing of the past, but I’d be shocked if Roach isn’t being praised for destroying the rim at least 10 times on SportCenter’s nightly Top 10.

Jeff Haley basketball editor

Do kids still have posters? I used to have a bunch, although to be fair most of the ones I had were kind of crappy. (For example, I had a big team photo of the 1986 Cleveland Browns on my wall for a time. It was one of the free posters you could get by writing a letter to the team. It wasn’t very nice.) Posters just seem so analog to me, and I would assume that kids mostly look at Instagram photos these days, in between the sexting sessions.

Robert Larkin staff writer

Warning to Opposing Players: Get out of the way if Mr. Roach is coming at you in the open court.

That’s all that needs to be said.

Jack Keyes -- staff writer

Many trees will be killed printing the posters Roach will be responsible for. It would be much more environmentally friendly to make a slide show presentation, or perhaps a YouTube compilation.

horn bullet

The ‘Horns are young and inexperienced, but possess a tremendous amount of potential. The roster has weaknesses, such as a true point guard and concerns in the paint, but it’s also one that fits Shaka Smart’s coaching style much better than last season. All things considered, whats a realistic ceiling and floor for the 2016-17 Longhorns?

Cody Daniel co-editor

A realistic ceiling for the team seems to be a Sweet 16, but if Jarrett Allen, Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach Jr. can all live up to their NBA-bound labels sooner than later, I could see an Elite Eight if given a less than overwhelming tournament path.

The floor, on the other hand, could be missing the tournament entirely. Texas is young and inexperienced across the board and with that comes mistakes, such as turnovers (likely several per game). Texas has a very manageable non-conference slate, but if the 'Horns enter the new year with three or four losses, Big 12 play could become a slog and the losses could pile up.

Jeff Haley basketball editor

This question is tricky, because people generally want to talk about the NCAA tournament as a part of that, and the NCAA tournament has a tendency to produce variable outcomes. So I kind of try to stay away from projecting how far in the tournament a team is likely to go.

I prefer to focus on where in the Big 12 a team is likely to finish, because that averages out many more games and is probably a better measure of overall quality. Texas’ ceiling will probably be to challenge for second place in the league (Kansas should be awesome and will likely smoke everyone) and earn a three or four seed in the NCAA tournament.

Texas’ floor is a seventh or eighth place Big 12 finish and a trip to the NIT. (A less rigorous non-conference schedule makes me think that falling below .500 for the season is unlikely, so we won’t find ourselves trying to figure out how to watch the CBI in March.) My median projection is a fourth to sixth place conference finish and landing on the good side of the NCAA tournament bubble.

Robert Larkin staff writer

This team has some mouth-watering potential and great pieces in place for a Shaka Smart team, but the inexperience really worries me. In addition, it feels like every successful team in March has that one ‘go-to guy,’ but that seems to be lacking on this Texas roster.

But then again, this is a Shaka Smart coached team. When you’re considered an elite coach, you’re still expected to have your team playing at a high level. Is that unfair with the makeup of this roster? Maybe. However, if Smart wants to be considered one of the best in the business (I believe he is), he needs to show he has the coaching abilities to play into his roster’s strength, despite its shortcomings in other areas.

I think the floor for this team needs to be a respectable performance in conference play and an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Big 12 is a difficult conference and Texas may not be basketball royalty, but heavy expectations still need to be in place.

Jack Keyes staff writer

What scares me to death is the fact that on paper this looks like it could be a “rebuilding year”, but of course fans will expect progression in Shaka’s second season. The truth is that this year’s unit is far less experienced than last year. I trust that Smart’s team will perform well enough to keep alive the faith of the fans and recruits, but I worry that the floor of this year is lower than most people expect.

That said, the ceiling is higher than the floor is low. To put it straightforwardly — I’m going to say floor = being one of the first teams left out of the NCAA Tournament, ceiling = Elite Eight.