College Basketball: The Texas Longhorns Are Better Than Their Record Suggests
Merely eleven months ago, I was talking about the curious case that was the 2015 Texas Longhorns. Now, with a new coach on the bench and some fresh faces on the court, the Longhorns are in a very similar situation.
They may not be in the hands of the committee, nor are they likely to miss out on the NCAA tournament (we give them nearly a 75% chance).
But they have been a little up and down this season.
Against teams outside the current AP Top 25, Texas is 12-6 on the season with three early-season losses on neutral courts. On the other side of things, Texas is 5-3 with two road wins against ranked teams.
Hidden in these records is the fact that the Longhorns weren't that good to start out the season, but they've greatly improved throughout the campaign to get to where they are now.
Despite losing Junior center Cameron Ridley to a broken foot, suffered in practice back on December 27th, the Longhorns have managed to turn the corner on their 2015-16 season. Their freshmen backcourt has surely matured while their experienced bigs, Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh, have picked up a lot of slack down low.
Sure, the Longhorns are just 9-6 in the 15 games absent Ridley, but seven of those games have come against teams currently ranked in the Top 25, including number-two Kansas and number-three Oklahoma.
In those two games, the Longhorns led at halftime and lost by a total of 12 points.
That is the Longhorns' season in a nutshell -- above-average results against really good competition.
According to KenPom.com, the Longhorns are not only the 23rd-best team in the country, but they are the only team in the country in the top five in terms of opponents' average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (4th) and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (3rd).
In comparison, the Oklahoma Sooners rank fifth in opponent average Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and 12th in their competition's average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. They also rate just 97th in Non-Conference Strength of Schedule (NCSOS) rating compared to Texas' 69th ranked rating in the same category.
|Texas||NCSOS||Opp O||Opp D|
Oklahoma's the closest comparison, but there really isn't one when it comes to the competition that Texas has faced this season. As reflected by their NCSOS, in addition to facing tough competition in the Big 12, Texas has given themselves quite the challenge out of conference against teams like Washington, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
Even with such a tough schedule against top offenses and defenses, Coach Smart's crew is 17-9 and ranked 30th in our own power rankings. They've proven themselves to be a well-balanced team, with the nation's 35th-ranked defense and 29th-ranked offense in terms of Adjusted Defensive and Offensive Efficiency.
The tough and competitive Longhorns have gone through the gauntlet this year. And they should be prepared for some difficult games and tough competition in the coming month and a half.
We shouldn't be surprised if they cause some trouble in the Big 12 tournament, or if they even compete for the title.
Either way, with their strength of schedule and notable wins, expect them to be "in" come Selection Sunday. And who knows, maybe Texas will make a surprise run when the madness of March ensues.