A Different Tune
This time last year the only buzz about the Longhorns involved speculation about potential replacements for coach Rick Barnes. (Buzz Williams? Shaka Smart?) A flurry of transfers had left Texas with an underwhelming roster and little hope for a ticket to the Big Dance. But the Longhorns adopted a gritty, defense-first identity, advanced to the NCAA round of 32 and got Barnes a contract extension through 2019—as well as a commitment from consensus top 10 recruit Myles Turner.
On a team that has 94.0% of its scoring and nine of 10 rotation players back, Turner's presence ups expectations exponentially. At 6'11" with a 7'4" wingspan, he is on board with the defensive philosophy, vowing to become a frontline "anchor." Barnes raves about Turner's timing on blocked shots but worries that at just 240 pounds he'll get banged around down low. Fortunately he'll have 6'9", 285-pound center Cam Ridley and 6'8", 240-pound wing Jonathan Holmes to back him up. "We really have a chance to protect the rim," Barnes says.
The Longhorns lack a three-point threat, which means they'll have to rely on sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor's ability to penetrate and create. But if their offensive rhythm matches their defensive mojo, Austin will be buzzing for all the right reasons.
With 2014--15 Projected Stats
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
ROUND OF 32
TELLING NUMBER 39.6
Offensive rebounding percentage for the Longhorns last season, which ranked sixth nationally. Their better work on the boards (Texas ranked 80th in the same category in 2012--13) was a major reason for their eight-win improvement.
DARREN CARROLL FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Turner is eager to be the anchor down low.