Criticize Rick Barnes all you want — believe me, the criticism is not unfounded — but the longtime Texas coach has built quite the resume for himself in his time with the Longhorns. He has been the head coach for 15 years, and in his first 14 years earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament in each year. Last year, however, was nothing short of a major disappointment. A fringe Top 25 team to begin the season with a surplus of talent, the Longhorns finished the year 16-18 — the only sub .500 in Barnes’ history as a head coach which spans more than 25 years.
That’s pretty impressive. But last season? Far from it.
Expectations are low for Texas entering the 2013-14 campaign, and the coaching seat hot for Barnes.
The offense wasn’t very good to begin with last season, and compound that with Texas losing Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and Ioannis Papapetrou, it doesn’t figure to get much better. There are many uncertainties entering the season, with the primary one being who will actually score the basketball. Barnes told the Longhorn Network that he wasn’t sure “who would be that guy if we had to go get a basket.”
That’s pretty unsettling. Entering the year not knowing who was going to be “that guy” isn’t a good thing.
If there is one bright spot for Texas, it will be on the defensive end, according to Barnes.
The last season Texas was considered a top team and routinely in the Top 25 was in 2010-11; they were 28-8 that year and earned a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Much of their success that year could be attributed to their defensive play as they held opponents to just 29.5% shooting from 3PT and 42% shooting from 2PT — both top ten nationally.
Said Barnes, “We haven’t been good the last couple years. We will play harder and play better defense. With the size we have, we’ll be able to protect the rim.”
Rising sophomore guard Javan Felix will spearhead the effort to turn the program around and back to its winning ways. That’s a big onus for Felix, especially considering he is the top offensive threat returning from last season. Felix averaged 6.8 points and shot 35.4% from the field — both of those numbers will have to drastically improve.
With a dearth of proven scorers, Texas will need to hang their hat on the defensive end in order to find success.