Longhorns hope to make mark in non-conference schedule

Shane Lewis

The Longhorns faced a grueling non-conference schedule in 2015.

The team topped UNC — who went on to appear in the NCAA title game —­­ and faced four other eventual NCAA Tournament teams. Additionally, the Longhorns played four of their first five games overseas, with the season opener in Shanghai, China, and three games during the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas. 

But Texas’ non-conference schedule isn’t nearly as dense this season. The schedule features only three teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year.

Still, there are several matchups to keep an eye on.

Nov. 21–22: Legends Classic Tournament

The Longhorns will spend their Thanksgiving break this year in Brooklyn, New York, where they will compete in the Legends Classic tournament. The team will face Northwestern in the first round and either Notre Dame or Colorado in its second game. Both the Fighting Irish and the Buffaloes made last year’s tournament, with Notre Dame making a surprise run into the Elite Eight, but each also lost their leading scorer. Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson joined the NBA and Colorado’s Josh Scott graduated. However, both squads still boast a considerable amount of veteran experience on their rosters and either team will test the Longhorns early.

Dec. 6 at Michigan 

Texas will head to Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Dec. 6 with hopes to avenge last season’s 78-72 loss to the Wolverines. The Longhorns were blitzed early by a Michigan three-point barrage — the Wolverines sank 11 shots from behind the arc in the first half. This year, Michigan will be without the services of star guard Caris LeVert, who was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets in June. But the team still retains four of its top-five scorers from last season and will test the Texas defense. 

Dec. 17 vs. Arkansas 

This year’s Lone Star Shootout in Houston will feature two teams, not including the Longhorns, from last year’s NCAA Tournament: Texas A&M and Arizona. But the Longhorns will face Arkansas, who had a chance to contend for the SEC title behind the play of senior center Moses Kingsley. The 6-foot-10 center was one of the top defensive players in the nation last season, ranking No. 2 in the SEC with 76 blocks. Kingsley also led his team with 9.3 rebounds per game and finished second on the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game; the numbers earned him second team All-SEC honors. The Longhorns will look to contain Kingsley when the two teams meet at the Toyota Center.

Jan. 28 at Georgia 

This year’s SEC-Big 12 Challenge pits the Longhorns up against the Bulldogs. Texas has a record of 2-1 in the annual challenge since its inception in 2013, with two wins over Vanderbilt in 2013 and 2015 and a loss to Kentucky in 2014. Georgia has only competed once in the challenge and fell 83-73 to Baylor last season. The Bulldogs seek to make it back into the NCAA Tournament after missing out in 2016, and they brought in some much-needed talent. According to 247sports, Georgia picked up the No. 35 recruiting class — their best since 2011.  The team hopes to pick up a signature win over the Longhorns, while Texas looks to steal a road win in Athens, Georgia.