Posted September 20th, 2017
The Texas Longhorns will play in two of the best Big 12 basketball games this season says CBS basketball writer Matt Norlander, who gave his best matchups for each major conference.
Texas’s first Big 12 game will be one of the best games of the year, Norlander predicts, as the Longhorns face the very likely preseason conference favorite Kansas on Dec. 29 in Austin.
Because Texas brings in a five-star center prospect named Mo Bamba (and what a name he has), the Longhorns are expected to have a bounce-back campaign in a big way. UT was 11-22 last season, and it’s also got Andrew Jones back at shooting guard. Jones flirted with going to the NBA Draft. It would be big for UT morale if it could hold off the Big 12 favorites in the season-opener.Advertisement
Thoughts: This will be one of the toughest games of the season for the young Longhorns who will play this game during the winter break, which means many students won’t be on campus to fill the Erwin Center. On top of that, Texas will have to play the 13-time reigning Big 12 champions, who many are projecting to be a top-team in the preseason polls. However, by this point in the season Texas will be well-tested after playing Butler and possibly Duke at the PK80 Tournament in Oregon, a road game against VCU and a Michigan team that should be a contender in the Big Ten. A week before playing Kansas, the Longhorns will face a rising program in Alabama on a neutral floor in Birmingham, Ala.
The Longhorns should be ready for the Jayhawks.
The next Longhorn game Norlander points out is Texas’ home matchup with Baylor on Feb. 12.
Baylor lost Johnathan Motley to the NBA, so there’s some wait-and-see with the Bears. But the reality is, the Bears weren’t expected to be a top-25 club heading into last season, then got off to a 20-1 start and turned into one of the most surprising squads in college hoops. Manu Lecomte returns, and Jake Lindsey will spike in production. This intra-Texas battle could wind up being significant in terms of the bubble.
Thoughts: Lecomte is probably Baylor’s best player and Lindsey is a gamer, but expect forwards Terry Maston and Jo Lual-Acuil to be key to Baylor’s season. Also fun: Jarrett Allen’s older brother Leonard Allen begins his sophomore season at Baylor. This game is probably more important than the first matchup in Waco because it’s later in the season and could have more say in the conference standings and tournament implications, but either this game or the Jan. 6 matchup in Waco should be important.
One Norlander probably missed: Either of Texas’ games against Oklahoma. If you’re like me, you think Texas and Oklahoma will have massive bounce-back seasons after both teams struggled to win more than 10 games last season. Texas will because Mo Bamba should make this unit an elite defensive squad and Matt Coleman should give Texas a capable point guard. I don’t know how good Coleman will look in a conference loaded with great point guards, but he has to be better than what Texas used last year. Throw in Andrew Jones, Kerwin Roach, Eric Davis and other wings, and Texas could be a fun team to watch.
Oklahoma is in the same boat. Instead of a game-changing center, the Sooners landed one of the top point guard recruits in the country in Trae Young. Both Bamba and Young were McDonald’s All-Americans and both are likely instant impact players for their teams. Oklahoma also ended the 2016-2017 season playing quality basketball as players like Christian James, Jamuni McNeace, Kameron McGusty and Rasdard Odomes teamed with experienced big man Khadem Lattin to push Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor late in the season. The Sooners also beat a tournament team in Kansas State by 30 and NIT Champion TCU by 10 to end the regular season.
Both of the Texas-Oklahoma games are in February, meaning both could have huge impact in seeding and Big 12 standings.