That's because the Longhorns were expected to be able to field arguably the Big 12's top team in 2011-2012, one built around strong returning underclassmen and an influx in talent and depth from the freshman class. But now, with the announcement that Longhorns Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson will leave their names in the NBA Draft, Texas will probably need this freshman class just to make the top four teams in the league.
After that loss to the Wildcats, both Thompson and Jordan Hamilton stated that they were returning to the Longhorns next year. But few believed Hamilton, as he seemed to be a polished player whose dream was always to play in the league.
Thompson's decision to explore the waters came as more of a surprise. The freshman was considered a wildly raw player, one without a semblance of an offensive post or face up game, a player who thrived largely because of his size, athleticism and energy levels.
If Thompson's announcement came as a surprise, Joseph's was a shocker. The freshman guard was largely a complementary piece this past year, shooting only when wide open and failing to display a high level of aggression. Even more surprising was his decision to pass up a chance to play with fellow Canadian and former teammate Myck Kabongo in the backcourt. The two had proven to be successful together, and there's little doubt that Kabongo would have improved Joseph's draft stock.
Instead, Kabongo will find himself paired with an elite scorer in J'Covan Brown in a backcourt that will need to gel — especially defensively — for the Longhorns to compete at a high level in conference play. Thompson's loss will be felt in a frontcourt that only returns one rotation player from a year ago, Alexis Wangmene, and that seems to lack a shot-blocker.