Rick Barnes is changing strategies. After watching nine players leave the program for the NBA before becoming upperclassman, Barnes has decided to go with a different recruiting strategy.
The question about this philosophy change is not if it will work, but if it will work in time.
Last season was not a good one for Texas. It missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since Barnes took over and was bounced from the first round on the College Basketball Invitational by Houston. Not the national tournament — the CBI.
This was due, in part, to a lack of upperclassman, which will be a problem again next season with three players having transferred so far this offseason. In light of this, Barnes has elected to take players who are more likely to stay for three or four years and develop some cohesiveness in his program.
Bill Self has established tyrannical control over the Big 12 at Kansas. The Jayhawks won the Big 12 conference 12 times and nine in a row using this strategy. Louisville just won the national championship with five upperclassman averaging at least 10 minutes a game.
The Kentucky/John Calipari system is more glamorous and brings in high-profile players, but it has the tendency to fall flat on its face as it did this past season. The national championship team two years ago had a senior guard that averaged significant minutes and several sophomores and juniors that had Final Four experience on the team. Without that kind of seasoning on the team, Kentucky floundered on the bubble almost all season before being upset in the first round of the NIT by Robert Morris out of the Northeast Conference.
Switching recruiting styles to the more consistent system cannot be a bad thing. The consistency it will bring will start to come with wins at some point. But will it be soon enough for Barnes to take advantage of it? He cannot afford to have another season similar to this past one. Texas has to be relevant in the Big 12 and has to be in contention for an NCAA tournament spot if he wants to avoid the hot seat.
This new system is not a quick fix. It will take time to get the kind of players that the roster will need and for them to develop into the kind of players that can start on a championship team. Time is not a luxury Barnes and Texas have right now.