Count Kansas coach Bill Self as someone not taking Shaka Smart’s second Longhorn team lightly.
Self, the coach who has led the Jayhawks to 12 straight Big 12 conference titles, was a recent guest on the “College Hoops Today with Jon Rothstein” podcast where he talked about his upcoming team, the Elite Eight loss to Villanova and Big 12 expansion. But toward the end of the interview, Rothstein asked Self about this year’s group of Big 12 teams and who would challenge the Jayhawks.
After noting Oklahoma State’s sleeper potential with the return of Phil Forte and Juwan Evans, and Iowa State, West Virginia and Baylor’s sustained success over the years, he turned his direction to Texas.
“I think Texas is gonna be ridiculously young, but I think they’re ridiculously talented. They signed a couple McDonald’s (All-Americans) that could play into being all-league type performers either this year or early in their careers. So I wouldn’t sleep on the Longhorns at all.”
Texas beat Kansas, Houston and Kentucky in the recruitment of Jarrett Allen, a Round Rock product who played his high school ball in Austin. The 6-foot-11-inch center is the prized recruit for the Longhorns and, along with Andrew Jones, is a 2016 McDonald’s All-American. Despite the Longhorns losing five starters, seven scholarship players overall, and the its leading scorer (Isaiah Taylor), Smart’s second team is generating some buzz with its strong recruiting class and a backcourt that features potential star Kerwin Roach.
If anyone knows how good a Smart team can be, it’s Self. While the Jayhawks handled the Longhorns with relative ease in Smart’s first season, one of the young coach’s biggest career wins, and one of Self’s most painful career defeats, came in the 2011 Elite Eight. Smart’s Virginia Commonwealth squad, a play-in team, beat the loaded No. 1-seeded Jayhawks, who entered the tournament 32-2 overall. The Rams beat Kansas 71-61 and advanced to the Final Four.
Self’s views of the Longhorns are aligned with the rest of the conference coaches, who picked the Longhorns to finish third in the preseason poll.
Kansas received all nine first-place votes in the Big 12 coaches preseason poll.
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