2010-11 Record: 28-8
Big 12 Conference Record (Standing): 13-3 (2nd)
Our Preseason Predictions:
Joe: 5th in the Big 12
Evan: 5th in the Big 12
Matt: 6th in the Big 12
Season MVP: Jordan Hamilton
As Hamilton went this year, so did Texas. In fact this isn't entirely true, but it sure felt like it. I was actually shocked looking back over Texas' late season losses that Hamilton played as well as he did (discounting the Colorado loss). Hamilton had a terrific season: he finished shooting just under 50% from two, just under 40% from three and just under 80% from the charity stripe. And Hamilton took very difficult shots. Most of the time he was forced to create for himself, as he was often isolated on the weak side. While he improved dramatically in scoring (see the charts below), he shocked me with his defensive effort this season.
Maybe I just didn't watch Hamilton carefully enough his freshman year, but I always thought he was a lazy and disinterested defender at best. This year he definitely showed flashes of apathy (like the Colorado game), but for the most part he was a terrific defender that utilized his long athletic frame. Watching Hamilton last season there wasn't much question that he could score. The question was: How efficiently? This year he was a scoring machine, averaging over 18 points a game with close to eight rebounds to boot. The success on the offense translated to the defensive end, where Hamilton was normally active and effective.
While he didn't win team MVP, Tristan Thompson deserves a lot of credit for the Longhorns' success this season. Thompson was a beast inside all year long, blocking shots on the defensive end and sending it home while crashing the offensive boards on the other. Thompson was integral to the team as an eraser to protect the lane from anyone who got past the first line of defense.
As for the team's success, Texas had about three quarters of a great season. This was drastically better than last year's run that couldn't last half a year. Through the first 75% of the season, the Longhorns were undefeated in the Big 12, prohibitive favorites to win the conference outright, and almost a lock for the top line on Selection Sunday. Then the wheels got loose. Things were still drastically better than last season, which went up in flames, but one couldn't help but feel like the Longhorns peaked too soon. After going 23-3--including finishing off Kansas' epic winning streak at Allen Field House--the Longhorns proceeded to lose three of their last five to Nebraska, Colorado and K-State. Suddenly a team we had all been talking about going undefeated in conference play found itself alone in second place.
What went wrong? I'm really not sure. I think a lot had to do with Texas' defense wearing down, and missed shots leading to easy opportunities on the other end. Mini-meltdown included, the Longhorns were horrifically under-seeded at a four (they easily should have been a two or at least a three). Unfortunately, the Arizona Wildcats had a date with destiny with Duke in the Sweet 16 and put an end to what had been a very accomplished season for the Longhorns.
It all comes down to two decisions. If Jordan Hamilton and/or Tristan Thompson stay in the draft, Texas will be pretty good (top half of the ten-team Big 12 at worst). If both come back to school, Texas should be the prohibitive favorite to win the conference (and I know, that takes into account Kansas wins it every year). Rick Barnes has another blockbuster class on its way to Austin next year, headlined by McDonald's All American Myck Kabongo. The class also sports four-star recruits Sheldon McClellan, Jonathan Holmes and Julien Lewis. Currently it's ranked fourth by ESPNU100 and eighth by Rivals.
Even with a great incoming class, the Longhorns lose Dogus Balbay and Gary Johnson to graduation. Those guys may not have put up huge numbers, but you can be sure they had big impacts (especially on the defensive end and boards respectively). The Longhorns need Hamilton and Thompson back to be a truly elite team in my opinion, but no matter what Kabongo should make them fun to watch.
**Editor's note: I fully expect Thompson and Hamilton to stay in the draft, though neither has reportedly signed an agent or made an official statement either way.
See our schedule for Season Recaps after The Jump.
Tuesday, April 5 Baylor Season Recap
Wednesday, April 6 Colorado Season Recap
Thursday, April 7 Iowa State Season Recap
Friday, April 8 Kansas Season Recap
Monday, April 11 K-State Season Recap
Tuesday, April 12 Mizzou Season Recap
Wednesday, April 13 Nebraska Season Recap
Thursday, April 14 Oklahoma Season Recap
Friday, April 15 Oklahoma State Season Recap
Monday, April 18 Texas Tech Season Recap
Tuesday, April 19 Texas A&M Season Recap
Wednesday, April 20 Texas Season Recap