If there were ever a time for Shaka Smart to figure it out in Austin, it was this season. The roster had officially peaked and was so deep and experienced that the in-season transfers of a pair of former four-stars was hardly noticed. The best Texas roster in recent memory burst onto the scene early, winning 10 of their first 11 games, including three over ranked foes, en route to a No. 4 national ranking. Since then, though, Covid-19 impacted the team, as did a historic weather storm that limited preparation during a key stretch, and the losses followed. Once 10-1, a suddenly inconsistent Texas squad dropped six of its next 10 and oftentimes looks like a completely different team than before. Now, all that matters is which version of itself Texas finishes the season as.
On most nights, you know what you’re going to get out of Texas’ guard trio of Matt Coleman III, Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones. Brown, on the other hand, has been a bit of a wild card. When he’s playing well and asserting himself offensively, the offense as a whole opens and flows more smoothly and efficiently. But in a steep step back from his 12.9 points per contest in Texas’ wins, Brown is averaging less than half of that — 6.4 points — in the Horns’ six losses. It was expected that Brown would be an X-factor for Texas entering the season, and given that four of their six losses have come by a single score, Texas needs Brown to be the best version of himself in the Big Dance.
On paper, Texas has just about everything you’d want — quality veteran guards who can score, plenty of depth throughout the roster, hyper athletic forwards who can smother opponents defensively and a wealth of experience. Not to mention, if you survive the Big 12, you’re more than battle-tested. If Texas can simply look the part of the team it’s proven capable of being during the first half of the season, and occasionally since then, there aren’t too many teams that will be favored over the Longhorns on any given day. All of the ingredients are there, it’s just a matter of whether or not Texas can put them together when it’s time to win or go home.
Late-game execution, or more specifically, the lack thereof, has been a consistent issue under Shaka Smart. This season is no different. Of Texas’ six losses, four have come by a single score, and one other instance occurred in overtime. All things considered, Texas is no more than a handful of plays away from a historic season that features, in addition to what they’ve already accomplished, wins over No. 12 Villanova, No. 15 Texas Tech, No. 24 Oklahoma and No. 13 West Virginia. Of course, offensive droughts remain an issue as well, but nine times out of 10, Texas is going to put itself in position to win the game down the stretch. Whether or not they execute and come away with a win is practically a toss up with their current success rate, and nobody would be surprised if late-game woes in a tight contest caused Texas’ season to end earlier than anticipated.