Members of the Texas team celebrate after winning the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

BEVO BEAT Swimming & Diving

Year end review: 5 Longhorn squads that can win it all next year

Posted December 27th, 2016

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Which teams have the best chances to win it all and light the tower up in burnt orange in 2017? Here are five teams to watch:

5.  Texas women’s basketball

Texas head coach Karen Aston, left, greets Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma before an NCAA college basketball game in the regional final of the women's NCAA Tournament, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Texas head coach Karen Aston, left, greets Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma before an NCAA college basketball game in the regional final of the women’s NCAA Tournament, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

We understand this squad will enter the year barely over .500  and we also  know that Connecticut, who beat Texas 72-54 earlier this month, wins this every year.

But the women’s basketball team, proportionally to football and men’s hoops, has the most talent of any of the major team sports (football, men’s basketball and baseball). Texas women recruit at an elite level and play a tougher non-conference schedule than any other team on campus. Texas will have to beat Baylor to win the conference, and they never do that. Texas would have to avoid a let down against less-talented Big 12 teams, something they didn’t do last season.

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But Texas has the bulk of an Elite Eight team back and Joyner Holmes is just starting to get going after arriving on campus as one of the top recruits in the country. Texas enters Big 12 play with a 6-4 record. The Longhorns are ranked No. 16 and two of the loses were to teams ranked in the top three when they faced Texas – South Carolina (then-No. 3) and UConn (then-No. 2). The other loses (Stanford and Mississippi State) were against top 10 teams.

The women’s basketball team has a better chance at winning it all than the football team (scoff all you want) and the men’s basketball team.

4. Rowing

Rowing is one of the four teams on campus with a legit chance to win a national title in 2017. They reached the NCAA Championships last season, finishing eighth out of 22 teams. Texas posted top-nine national finishes from all three boats last season.

Also, the Longhorns have quite a bit coming back. Gia Doonan, Emily Froehlich and Pippa Loveard were CRCA Division I Pocock All-American team selections last season. Doonan was on the U.S. Under 23 championship team in 2016.  Freshman Mariam Soufi was Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

Plus the Longhorns could be due in coach Dave O’Neill’s fourth season. Twice he’s led the Longhorns to top-10 finishes. He built the current defending champion ,California, into a rowing powerhouse. As coach of the Golden Bears, he won two national championships, 12 NCAA top-four finishes and four individual event crowns. O’Neill’s a three-time National Coach of the Year winner, winning twice at Cal during his 16 year stint and once at Boston College in 1999.

See, maybe Texas is due for a rowing championship this year.

3. Track and Field 

University of Texas senior Courtney Okolo runs in the 4x400 meter relay at the Texas Relays on April 2, 2016. (Shelby Tauber for the Austin American-Statesman)
University of Texas senior Courtney Okolo runs in the 4×400 meter relay at the Texas Relays on April 2, 2016. (Shelby Tauber for the Austin American-Statesman)

Let’s start with the women’s team. Courtney Okolo is the nation’s best track athlete and the 2016 Bowerman Award winner. She’s likely going to win another national championship. She is, after all, an Olympic gold medalist. Just saying.

Incoming freshman Alexis Duncan won the 100-meter hurdles at the U.S. Track and Field Championships and finished fourth at the IAAF World Junior Championships. A total of six Longhorn women participated at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Poland.

Finally, Chrisann Gordon also returns, and was a silver medalist at the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Combine it all and Texas should compete for a national championship.

Next: All-American decathlete Steele Wasik (not a fake name) has joined the team after transferring from UCLA and will be on the men’s team. The men’s team also has Senoj-Jay Givans returning after he took bronze in the 100 meters, becoming the first Texas sprinter since 1977 to finish in the top three.

All-in-all, the women’s team is loaded and should be a contender and the men’s team is loaded with talent as well.

Will they win the team national championship? Who knows, but you can probably pencil in several individual titles.

2.  Volleyball

UT volleyball players huddle during a timeout in the first set against BYU at the regional round of the 2016 Division I Women's Volleyball Championship at Gregory Gym on Friday December 9, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT volleyball players huddle during a timeout in the first set against BYU at the regional round of the 2016 Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship at Gregory Gym on Friday December 9, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Everything is there for Texas volleyball to win a national championship in 2017. Back-to-back runner-up finishes in the NCAA Tournament is motivating the squad, most of this year’s team is returning and probably a preseason No. 1 ranking is looming. Texas returns All-American Ebony Nwanebu, Big 12 freshman of the year Micaya White, junior libero Cat McCoy, talented sophomore Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani and one of the best coaches in the nation in Jerritt Elliot.

Sure Texas losing a pair of All-Americans –  setter Chole Collins and outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame – hurt, but rising sophomores like Blair Westerlund, Orie Agbaji, Riley Fishbeck and Claire Hahn were all top recruits, and Texas will be bringing in more, so the volleyball team should be well-stocked for another run, and this time finish the job.

1.Men’s swimming and diving

Texas team members celebrate after winning the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Texas team members celebrate after winning the NCAA men’s swimming and diving championships Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

As we said in the storyline feature from a few days ago, the question probably isn’t will they win it all. but by how many points will they win it all?

This team returns three Olympic gold medalists (Jack Conger, Joseph Schooling and Townley Haas). Haas is a defending NCAA champion is four events and Conger is a defending champion in three (he’s an 11-time All-American, wait what?). Schooling is a defending champion in four events as well and is a national hero in his native country of Singapore.

Also, there’s the unknown factor. A handful of freshman are entering the program, including 13-time USA Diving junior national champion Grayson Campbell, so the team is likely only to be better next season with the talent in the freshman class.

Plus, the best swimming coach in the nation – Eddie Reese – resides on the 40 acres. Reese is in his 38th season at Texas and has 12 national titles. How’s this for a jaw-dropping factoid? He has 37 consecutive top-10 finishes in the NCAA Tournament.

Here’s something else:  Eddie Reese has 37 consecutive conference titles. What?

Eddie Reese to Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self, who’s won 12 straight Big 12 titles: “I’ll be impressed when you get to 30, pal!”

He didn’t actually say that, but it would be awesome if he did.

Texas men’s swimming and diving, book it: 2017 national champions.

Get caught up with the end of the year series: 

Dec. 19: Texas football’s top 10 plays of 2016

Dec. 20: 10 best Longhorn newcomers of 2016

Dec. 21: 10 best Texas football moments of 2016

Dec. 22: 10 worst moments of 2016 Longhorn football

Dec. 23: Top 10 recruits to come to Texas in 2016

Dec. 24: 10 best Longhorn moments of 2016

Dec. 25: 10 best Longhorn athletes of 2016

Dec. 26: 2017 Longhorn storylines to watch

Dec. 27: 5 Longhorn squads that can win it all next year

Dec. 28: 10 Longhorn football recruits to watch in 2017

Dec. 29: 10 Longhorns athletes to watch in 2017

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