Hello, Matt Coleman and Mohamed Bamba
It can’t be overstated how significant the additions of four-star point guard Matt Coleman and five-star power forward Mohamed Bamba are to the Longhorns’ 2017 recruiting class. Texas needed a point guard badly, as was evident by the Longhorns’ inability to generate offense. And when forward Jarrett Allen’s departure for the NBA Draft became official in April, Texas had big shoes to fill. Both Coleman and Bamba will be instrumental in Texas’ improvement next season, head coach Shaka Smart’s third with the program. Coleman, in particular, will have tremendous pressure to help facilitate the offense from day one.
Andrew Jones’ potential
When sophomore guard Andrew Jones announced in March he would “test the waters” and enter the NBA Draft, many Texas fans held their breath. Allen had already announced he would enter the Draft, with the chance of his return for a second year all but gone. Unlike Allen, though, Jones never hired an agent, ultimately deciding to withdraw from the Draft and return to Texas. Jones showed great promise last season, becoming one of the Longhorns’ few consistent scoring options. His game-winning three-pointer to beat Oklahoma at home was probably Texas’ highlight of the season. And while Jones still has plenty of polishing to do as a player, the sky's the limit. The addition of Coleman in the backcourt should also help alleviate some of the stress of ball-handling duties for Jones, who is more comfortable running to the floor and slashing to the rim.
Can Kerwin Roach Jr. and Eric Davis Jr. bounce back?
Junior guards Kerwin Roach Jr. and Eric Davis Jr. each showed plenty of promise in their freshman campaigns in 2015-16, and entering last season, both were widely expected to make strong leaps. But instead of having breakout sophomore years, both had seasons that teetered more toward sophomore slumps. Each shot under 40 percent from the field and struggled to find a rhythm within the offense. Some of that could be attributed to the loss of starting point guard and floor general Isaiah Taylor, but Roach and Davis will have to bounce back for Texas to compete in the Big 12.
Longhorns need more from their role players
The common theme for Texas in 2017-18 is improvement, and that is especially true for role players like sophomore guard Jacob Young and sophomore center James Banks. After having limited roles in forgettable freshman seasons, Young and Banks – along with some of the new additions Smart has added in the 2017 class – will be responsible for giving Texas the depth it didn’t have last season. Watch out for newcomers Jase Febres, Royce Hamm and Jericho Sims to contribute. Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski, who had to sit out last season after transferring from Tulane, will also make his debut for the Longhorns this upcoming season. Smart has raved about Osetkowski in press conferences, and the junior forward will certainly be a player to watch.
What’s the expectation for Shaka Smart in year three?
Regardless of the level of optimism among Longhorn fans for year three of the Shaka Smart era, it’s probably safe to assume all expect a stronger showing than what transpired last year. An 11-22 finish last season marked the program’s worst season since 1983-84. Now that Smart appears to have retooled the roster with the proper pieces, there will be more pressure on the Longhorns in 2017-18. Smart deserves plenty of credit for recruiting a top-five recruiting class, per 247Sports, after an abysmal 11-win season. Now it’s up to him and his staff to get the Longhorns back in the NCAA Tournament.