Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Longhorns short on experience, not confidence

Posted March 11th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Texas junior guard Kerwin Roach, the lone Longhorn with any NCAA Tournament experience, says Texas is "a dangerous team."
  • Coach Shaka Smart wants his players to be confident but says they have "no reason to be overconfident."
  • "On a scale of one to 10," sophomore guard Jacob Young said of the team's confidence level, "we're a 9 1/2 or 10."

Some free advice if you’re writing off the Longhorns in your bracket.

Don’t tell Texas it’s a 10th seed. Forget suggesting first-round opponent Nevada is a terrible matchup for Shaka Smart’s roller-coaster of a club since the high-scoring Wolf Pack have a big, versatile lineup across the board and average almost 10 3-pointers a game. If you’re thinking the Longhorns have no shot at advancing in this NCAA Tournament, keep it to yourself.

The Longhorn players don’t want to hear it. Texas ain’t toast.

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“If we play together and play smart, we can do a lot of damage,” Longhorn freshman center Jericho Sims told me. “We’re not done yet.”

Added sophomore guard Jacob Young, coming off a spectacular 29-point game against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament, “I think we can get on a big run. We definitely have the fight and have the skills.”

Asked to assess his team’s confidence level, Young said, “On a scale of one to 10, about a 9½ or a 10.”

Reminded that’s big talk for a team that finished tied for sixth in the Big 12 and lost in the quarterfinals of the league tournament, he said, “We actually thought we could win that tournament.”

Then there’s team leader and junior guard Kerwin Roach II, who said: “We can do a lot of damage. We’re a dangerous team. You catch us on a good day, it’s trouble. And if you count us on a bad day, it’s still trouble because we play good defense.”

So much for being the humble underdogs.

There’s nothing wrong with approaching a nerve-wracking postseason game with verve, even if Texas could start three freshmen and a junior who sat out last season and has just a single player who’s ever played in the NCAA Tournament  — one game, a loss, for Roach.

But Nevada, a team built on transfers, has very few big wins, even though its 12 road victories tie for the most in the country. The Wolf Pack did beat TCU and Texas Tech, but Red Raiders coach Chris Beard already texted Smart, asking if he needed any inside info.

When it was relayed to Smart that his team is extremely confident, however, he sighed with a bit of exasperation. It caught him a little by surprise because he pointed out that Nevada has won eight more games than Texas this season.

“You’d rather them be confident than not confident,” Smart said of his team. “There’s no reason for us to be overconfident. At the same time, we are Texas.”

Then he added with five days until tip on Friday, “We’ve got plenty of time to get on the same page.”

So, when asked if Texas could win the tournament, Smart didn’t take a page from his players and instead said, “We’re going to focus on winning Friday.”

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