How Texas men’s basketball compares to program’s last Final Four team

Peter Sall, General Sports Reporter

After winning the Big 12 tournament for the second time in three years and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Texas men’s basketball looks to crack the Final Four for the first time in 20 years by following in the footsteps of its 2002-03 predecessors.

The 2002-03 Texas men’s basketball team finished its season 26-7 and headed into the conference tournament as a No. 2-seed. Despite a loss to No. 7-seed Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament, Texas still received a No. 1-seed in the 2003 NCAA Tournament and made a deep run into the postseason before falling short to the eventual national champions Syracuse. 

Texas’ 2003-03 squad found its success through securing the ball off the glass and creating second-chance opportunities. Averaging 42 rebounds per game and 16.1 offensive rebounds per game, Texas ranked 4th in the nation in both categories, respectively. 

Texas also ranked 18th with 79.3 points per game, and offensive production primarily relied on T.J. Ford, who averaged 15 points per game and led the Big 12 in total assists (254), assists per game (7.7) and total free throws made (159). Ford was named a consensus First Team All-American and won both the Naismith College Player of the Year and John Wooden Awards. 

While Texas’ 2002-03 team relied heavily on a few players, the current basketball team is deep enough to make a postseason run.

Eight Longhorns average at least 17 minutes per game, whereas the 2002-03 team only had five players averaging a minimum of 17 minutes per game. 

Texas’ 2022-23 roster also benefits from experience with six seniors that make significant contributions compared to 2002-03, where production came from a mix of four juniors and some underclassmen.

Texas’ current 26–8 squad is led by First Team All-Big 12 graduate guard Marcus Carr, who averages 15.9 points, three rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. The Longhorns also wield All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Timmy Allen and Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year and All-Big 12 Third Teamer Sir’Jabari Rice. Texas’ depth allows for any player to step up at any given moment, like senior forward Dylan Disu, who was named MVP of the Big 12 Tournament. 

With its mix of contributors, Texas doesn’t excel in any one category, but rather plays a well-rounded, team game. The Longhorns average 77.9 points per game behind their 20th ranked 16.1 assists per game. The team takes care of the basketball better than its 2002-03 predecessors, averaging only 11.7 turnovers, and its solid defense holds opposing offenses to 67.4 points per game, 2.3 points better than the 2003 Final Four team. 

Although they have a distinctly different play style than the 2002-03 Horns, this season’s Texas  will rely on its momentum, depth and all-around game to sustain a long tournament run and potentially propel another Final Four appearance.