The Texas Longhorns were young last season, having no upperclassmen on their roster this year. Rick Barnes, somehow, has an even less experienced, though talented, team this year. One of the biggest question marks is the status of starting point guard Myck Kabongo.
Kabongo had a somewhat disappointing first year in Austin failing to live up to the hype that surrounded the freshman coming out of high school. The NCAA is investigating whether or not an agent paid for an offseason trip and workout, which puts his eligibility up in the air. The Longhorns are playing it safe for now and holding Kabongo out of preseason scrimmages in hopes that everything gets cleared up by the start of the season.
Kabongo struggled shooting the ball last season and turned it over too often, but has the ability to be a dynamic floor leader. If the sophomore is indeed suspended for a period of time, the point guard duties will fall on the shoulders of freshman Javan Felix. He is a pure distributor as well and would be thrust into a major role rather than transitioning to the college game behind Kabongo.
Shelden McClellan and Julien Lewis were key contributors during their freshman campaigns. McClellan was second on the team in scoring, while Lewis struggled shooting the ball. Both guys will be asked to take on more of a scoring load to help fill the void left behind by J'Covan Brown.
Texas loses a pair of seniors up front, but welcomes in McDonald's All-Ameircan Cameron Ridley. The 6-9, 270-pounder is a force down low with great hands and swift feet. Conditioning might be an issue for the big fella early on, but he is expected to add a low post presence that the team lacked most of last season.
Jonathan Holmes figures to retain his starting spot at power forward. Though a bit undersized at 6-7, he knows how to throw his body around and be physical in the paint. Jaylen Bond has a similar build and effectiveness and will once again be a valuable contributor off the bench due to his ability to crash the glass.
Bond is the only non-freshman coming off the bench. Texas will rely on 6-10 Prince Ibeh as an athletic shot-blocker. He runs the floor extremely well, but is still raw with his offensive game. Connor Lambert is another 6-10 body in the frontcourt, but is more versatile since he can stretch defenses with his three-point shooting. Ioannis Papapetrou and DeMarcus Holland will have a chance to earn immediate minutes on the wing as well.
Kabongo's status certainly puts things in limbo for the time being. Assuming he returns at some point before Big XII play begins and shows improvement from last year, this young Longhorns squad should easily head back to the NCAA Tournament for the 19th straight year. How competitive Texas can be on the national stage will be determined by how well the team gels and its players acclimate themselves to the college game.
Player to Watch: Cameron Ridley, C
The Longhorns didn't get a whole lot of production a year ago with the center tandem of Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene. Ridley is an immediate upgrade in terms of his low post scoring ability and with teams having focus on the big-man down low, it should open up some space for the shooters on the wing.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/19 vs. Chaminade (Maui Invitational)
11/20 vs. Illinois/USC (Maui Invitational)
11/21 vs. North Carolina/Mississippi State/Marquette/Butler (Maui Invitational)