Texas men's basketball year in review: Matt Coleman

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

Like it or not, the 2019-2020 college basketball season has come to an abrupt end. The Longhorns had an up-and-down year, to say the least, and much of the same could be said for the players donning the burnt orange uniforms. Throughout the rest of the school year, I’m going to spend each weekend recapping the seasons of individual players, including an overview of their play, strengths and areas of improvement.

First up is junior point guard Matt Coleman. Since stepping on campus, Coleman has been a constant within Texas’ starting lineup. He was arguably the team’s most consistent and productive presence this season. Coleman led the Longhorns with 12.7 points, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals on 55% true shooting, paving the way to clear the honorable mention hump of the past two seasons and land an All-Big 12 third team nod.

At the forefront of Coleman’s game is his speed. One of the fastest players in the Big 12, Coleman has the ability to disrupt a defense both in transition and at half court with his impressive first step. With the Longhorns ranking No. 273 in the country in offensive efficiency last year and last in the conference in points per game, Coleman’s change of pace can only help when it translates to putting more points on the board. That speed came in handy, keeping Texas’ season alive with a shot that ended up as one of the season’s better highlights.

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Additionally, Coleman has been very good at finding his teammates for looks, but this talent was shackled within head coach Shaka Smart’s system. Texas was dead last in the Big 12 with 11.58 assists per game during conference play. Back in high school, Coleman was considered a strong playmaker, and his 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio backs that claim up. Creating more movement should only benefit the Longhorns’ offensive efficiency and show off Coleman’s prowess in this medium.

However, there’s a reason Texas has struggled with Coleman running the show. Until this season, he was a poor shooter at worst — and streaky at best. While he has improved, it wouldn’t be reasonable to call him a sniper in any sense, especially off the bounce. While the shot was taken under duress, look at the difference between a shot where he is forced to relocate versus a simple catch and shoot attempt.

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As the Longhorns prepare for next season, having a point guard who can consistently make pullup threes will be a real boon to the offense, especially with the number of pick and rolls run by this Texas offense. Take a look at the NBA — or any other teams that run similar offenses with a high number of pick and rolls. They have players that can threaten to shoot from any spot on the court. Coleman may not ever get to that level, but becoming a passable pullup shooter should do wonders both individually and teamwise.

Furthermore, Coleman’s slight frame hinders his ability as a finisher, as partially evidenced by his 47% 2-point field goal percentage over the shortened season. He’s shown solid touch on floaters, but his lack of above average verticality around the hoop and slight frame mitigate his touch scoring at the rim. I’m not sure how much strength Coleman can add, but any additional strength could bring those numbers up.

This season, Coleman was forced into the role of primary option, something that he showed flashes in but does not play to his best strengths. The Longhorns were 2–2 when he scored at least 20 points, and a disastrous 2–6 when Coleman shot at least 13 times in a game. He’s more suited for a game manager who can pick his spots to score when the situation is advantageous, as evidenced by wins in 13 of 15 games when Coleman had 10 or fewer shot attempts. It was clear that Texas was not playing its best basketball with Coleman in a primary role. This is not really something under his control, but getting some additional help — late adds in the class of 2020 or on the transfer market — could take Coleman’s game to that next level.