Column: Balance highlights Texas men’s basketball success

David Leffler

Oftentimes, basketball lends its focus to individuals more than to whole teams. A few select players steal the attention deserved by many others, largely because of the small team size, which allows star players to emerge and cast shadows over their teammates. But things are different with the current Texas men’s basketball team, which has won nine of its last 10 conference games, thanks to its cohesive, selfless playing style.

For years, head coach Rick Barnes tried the same route to success as many other coaches in college hoops: recruit several big-time talents who will only stick around for a year before going to the NBA and hope to win with them immediately. Barnes has since shifted from this tactic and sought players who plan to stay in Austin for multiple years, resulting in valuable team chemistry and all-in effort from every player.

Saturday’s 88-71 victory over West Virginia sums this up perfectly. All of Texas’ starters reached double-digit point totals while the team made more than half of its shots. This was the fifth time this season the Longhorns have had five players reach double figures in points, although it was the first time every starter got in on the action.

A balanced scoring attack has been a constant strength for this team. Of the team’s 25 games this season, Texas has had four or more players reach double-digit point totals 16 times and three or more players on 20 occasions. With scoring threats across the board, opposing coaches can’t focus their defensive schemes on one or two players.

At this point, the Longhorns have four players averaging between 11 and 13 points per game. It’s rare to see such a small gap between a team’s top scorer and its fourth-leading scorer. Texas’ offense gives Barnes flexibility in designing schemes that have resulted in six wins by double-digit point margins in the last nine games.

A balanced attack has a paramount effect on a team’s psyche, something the Longhorns will draw upon for their two critical games this week against No. 17 Iowa State and No. 8 Kansas. It is no longer a death sentence when one player has a disappointing game. Now it’s merely an opportunity for someone else to step up.