Numbers say Texas needs improvement to contend

Peter Sblendorio

Texas men’s basketball was one of the biggest surprise teams last season.

After posting a disappointing 16-18 record during the 2012-2013 campaign, the Longhorns rallied behind a cast of talented underclassmen last season to improve to 24-11 and pick up a victory in the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Longhorns hope to continue improving and contend for a Big 12 title. Now, though, especially with sophomore guard Martez Walker suspended indefinitely, the numbers suggest Texas must improve in several key categories.

Based on recent history, the Longhorns need to boost their scoring output considerably in order to climb up the conference standings. Texas registered just 74.1 points per game last season, which was good for seventh in the conference and 84th in the nation, in terms of points per game.

Kansas, on the other hand, finished fourth in the conference and 22nd in the nation, in terms of points per game, with 79.6 points per game en route to the outright conference championship. Oklahoma, who finished second in the Big 12 standings despite having the conference’s worst scoring defense, finished, in terms of points per game, second in the Big 12 and seventh in the nation with 82.2 points per game. The best offensive team in the conference, though, was Iowa State, who averaged 83 points per game — sixth in the nation — and went on to win the Big 12 Tournament.

For the Longhorns to elevate themselves to the level of those three teams this season, they’ll almost certainly need to score at a greater clip. To do that, they’ll need greater individual performances from several players.

Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State each had at least one player average 16.5 points per game or more last season and at least two players average 13.5 points or more. The Longhorns, on the other hand, didn’t have any, as leading scorer Johnathan Holmes averaged just 12.7 points per game.

Texas could have a go-to scorer in freshman forward/center Myles Turner, who averaged 18.1 points per game as a senior at Trinity High School last season. Still, the Longhorns will likely need someone like Holmes or sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor to boost their scoring output in order to match up offensively with the other top teams in the Big 12.

The numbers also say the Longhorns must improve their passing game, as they finished eighth in the conference and tied for 161st in the nation, in terms of assists per game, with 12.8 assists per game. Conversely, Iowa State led the nation with 18.4 assists per game, while Kansas and Oklahoma each finished among the top five in the Big 12 in averaging at least 14.9 and 14.6 assists each night, respectively.

Lastly, in order to join the conferences’s elites, last season indicates Texas must improve its field goal percentage. The Longhorns finished ninth in the Big 12 and tied for 236th in the nation, making just .431 percent of their shots last season. Kansas (.493) and Iowa State (.474) finished first and second in the Big 12, respectively, and Oklahoma finished sixth with a .447 field goal percentage.

Coming off their impressive 2013-2014 campaign, the Longhorns boast the potential to compete with anyone in the Big 12 this season. But in order to do so, the numbers indicate they must first improve offensively.