Coming off a Big 12 title win, the Texas Longhorns look to go far in the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament. Texas landed in the East bracket region and may have the easiest Final Four path among No.3 seeds. Shaka Smart, the Texas head coach, is no stranger to the Final Four after taking VCU to one in 2011. The Longhorns have one of the best backcourts in America and their big men might be emerging at the perfect time.
Emerging Big Men?
The Longhorn frontcourt is led by the likes of Jericho Sims, Kai Jones and Greg Brown. The wildcard among the Texas big men is the talented true freshman Brown. In the 2020-21 season, Brown averages 10 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. However, what to expect out of Brown has become a mystery. Of course the NBA prospect is a major talent, but against Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament he became extremely frustrated and was benched. No one is positive what he was frustrated over, but Smart saw it as a detriment to the team. As a consequence, Brown sat the remainder of the game and lost his starting spot to Jones.
Jones another NBA prospect in the Longhorn frontcourt, has taken advantage of increased playing time. On the year, Jones has shot 56.9% while averaging 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds. In March, the 6-foot-11 sophomore forward increased his production by scoring 17 against Iowa State. In the Big 12 Tournament, Jones scored 10 shooting 66.7% versus Texas Tech and contributed 13 points in the title win against Oklahoma State.
Sims is the big man that has increased his play the most for Texas. Typically, Sims scores 8.7 points shooting 68.7% and grabs 6.8 rebounds per contest. In the last four games, Sims is averaging 16 points while shooting a staggering 80.4% and has averaged 10 rebounds. Against Oklahoma State, the big man was unstoppable scoring 21 points shooting 72.7% and dominated the glass by grabbing 14 rebounds. All three Texas big man are extremely talented and could all possibly play in the NBA. With Jones and Sims elevating their play and possible production from Brown, this could lead to domination in the paint.
All season, the Texas backcourt has been viewed as one of the best in college basketball. All three starting Longhorn guards average over 10 points, and have scored 20 points in at least one game this season. Courtney Ramey averages 12.6 points, 4 assists and 3.2 rebounds. The guard shoots 38.9% and a lethal 42% from three. Ramey exploded January 9th against West Virginia by pouring in 28 points shooting 63.6%.
Andrew Jones is the lead scorer averaging 14.6 points shooting 40.3% from the field. In addition, Jones is a good rebounding guard corralling 4.6 rebounds per contest. With five games with 20+ points, Jones has taken over several games in the 2020-21 season.
The floor general Matt Coleman is the last starting guard in the Texas lineup. Coleman is the most efficient scorer in the backcourt averaging 13.3 points while shooting 48.8% from the field and 38.9% from three. The left-handed shooter also retrieves 3.5 rebounds and dishes 4.1 assists per game. Coleman had a career-high in the Big 12 championship scoring 30 points while shooting a ridiculous 71.4% and was 4/5 from beyond the three point arc.
An incredible game from Matt Coleman: 30 points in the Big 12 Championship.
Texas wins the Big 12 Tournament. pic.twitter.com/IIWWtrv0hk
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) March 14, 2021
Texas is playing their best basketball of the season winning five straight with wins against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Longhorns managed to win the tournament of the best or second best conference in the country, which is extremely impressive. Guard play is of course important in modern basketball, the Longhorns have that in abundance. Also, with emerging big men they become even more dangerous.
Texas, a No.3 seed, will face off against a 23-4 Abilene Christian squad in the Round of 64. Of course, the Longhorns will be a heavy favorites. Opponents like Alabama, Florida State and Michigan are looming in the East region. The one seed Michigan pulled some extremely tough eight and nine seeds in St.Bonaventure and LSU, which could put the Wolverines in danger of an early exit without one of their best players Isaiah Livers. Outside of Michigan, Alabama looks to be the biggest threat to a Texas Final Four birth. If Texas continues their impressive play, they have a great shot at an Elite Eight or even a Final Four.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, Kenpom, NCAA and Team Rankings.