There’s a marked difference so far in the 5-1 Texas Longhorns from their 2012 version. The overall level of intensity on both ends of the court, the energy level and an apparent willingness to sacrifice self for team are all vastly improved so far in 2013. This squad doesn’t have an NBA superstar on the roster, a one-and-done that will depart Austin as soon as he’s arrived, and in a way, that appears to be a giant positive.
The Longhorns easily dispatched a pedestrian Depaul Blue Devils squad in the consolation game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, 77-59, behind great play from the interior presence of Cam Ridley (19 points, nine rebounds) and solid shooting and all around play on the perimeter. Texas was in control throughout and played with nice poise and control throughout in spite of a few of the typical types of turnovers you’d expect from a freshmen-laden team.
After a tough 86-82 loss to the BYU Cougars in the opening round of the CBE, it would be reasonable to expect somewhat of a letdown from Texas, because, after all, that was the pattern during 2012. During the 2012 season, a single loss would be compounded into several more losses due to Texas’ inability to put tough games behind them and focus on what needed to be done to get back on the right track. Whether this was due to the diva nature of some of the team’s more selfish players — which was definitely an element, to whatever degree — or just a general lack of team chemistry and cohesiveness, is hard to say for sure.
What is apparent, is that this is a different Texas team. The Longhorns are playing with energy, listening to the coaching staff, encouraging one another, cheering for one another from the bench, diving for loose balls, winning 50/50 balls. In short, they’re doing all the little things that can so often be the difference between wins and losses for teams that aren’t full of NBA-level talent.
It’s a small sample size to make too many predictions about where the Longhorns will land next Spring after only six games, but if the positive attitude and overall level of effort continues through the dog days of winter in Big 12 Conference play, this team just possibly could be post-season bound, and in the process, take some of the heat off of Rick Barnes’ backside.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer, Business Analyst and College Content Coordinator for Rant Sports.