Texas men’s basketball is leaning on experience

Matthew Caldwell, Associate Sports Editor

No. 10 Texas men’s basketball is having one of the program’s best seasons in recent memory. Although the Longhorns have made it to the NCAA Tournament the past two years as a three-seed and a six-seed, this year could be different. 

Warren Nolan’s basketball predictions project Texas to end with a 23-8 overall record. Texas is currently 18-4, and could possibly outperform that projection.

The team peaked at No. 2 in the country, the highest it has been ranked since the 2010 season, before a loss to then-No. 17 Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic. The Longhorns also picked up their seventh Quadrant 1 win after last night’s victory over No. 11 Baylor.

What makes this team different? Experience.

According to KenPom, Texas players have an average of 3.26 years of experience, which is the seventh most in the nation. The only ranked teams that are ranked higher in experience are No. 6 Virginia and No. 13 Iowa State.

Players such as graduate students Marcus Carr, Sir’Jabari Rice and Brock Cunningham, and seniors Timmy Allen, Christian Bishop and Dylan Disu all bring veteran presence and leadership qualities to younger players like sophomore Tyrese Hunter and freshmen Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris.

In an age of college basketball where most great players are one-and-done’s, players like the ones mentioned above are becoming increasingly rare. You don’t often see guys sticking around for four, five or even six years at top basketball schools like Texas.

Whether Carr, Cunningham and Allen decided to stay in college for one more year to improve their professional hopes or to get another chance at winning a national title, Texas benefits from having that continuity.

Because of this experience, the team has great chemistry and knows how to play alongside one another. They also know when a teammate is in a groove, and head coach Rodney Terry understands this as well.

“I think what really makes us difficult to deal with is that any given night, anybody can come out and have a great night,” Terry said.

This has been particularly evident as of late. Since Big 12 play started, the Longhorns have had five different players lead the team in scoring. This season, four players average double-digit scoring: Carr, Rice, Allen and Hunter.

On any given night, any player can step up to the plate. Against Baylor on Monday, Carr had a rough night, scoring just five points on 2-of-8 shooting, but Rice and Allen combined for 39 points to take down the Bears.

Come March, the experience that Texas possesses will be especially critical. In the NCAA tournament, there is no room for a bad night. If a team’s strongest player on offense has a bad game, then that team’s chances of making a deep tournament run can greatly decrease.

But, this shouldn’t be the case for the Longhorns. Their experience and knowledge of each other makes it easy to know who should be the go-to guy down the stretch, something that could very well differ each game.