For the last several seasons, Texas coach Rick Barnes hasn't been shy about indicating that his team needs to get out and run more. But each year, the season would get started, the team wouldn't run, and Barnes would spend his press conferences lamenting the lack of a running attack.
Fast forward to this year, when Barnes put his thoughts into action. In the offseason, he went after jet-quick point guard Isaiah Taylor, largely because Taylor was a one-man fast break in high school and AAU ball. And they made sure that the then-dreadlocked Taylor — who averaged 17.6 points and 10.0 assists his senior year of high school — knew what his one job was.
"Coach Barnes told me that they got me to run," Taylor said. "So I run."
And the Longhorns have seen their offense, a stagnant unit a year ago, jump in effectiveness. Texas averaged just 65.6 points per game a year ago. This year, after three games, the Longhorns are at 77.3 points per game.
But more importantly, Texas has jumped in efficiency. KenPom looks at Adjusted Tempo, which basically looks at a team's possession tempo, then filters it by competition. Because getting 70 possessions versus a crazy slow team is different than doing so against a team that speeds games up. Texas's Adjusted Tempo has leapt from 65.8 in 2012-2013 to 71.1 in 2013-2014. That's the second-fastest a Longhorn team has played since KenPom started tracking Adjusted Tempo in the 2002-2003 season.
And the Longhorns' offensive rating has also shot through the roof, with Texas sitting at 106.5 a year after putting up a 101.4. That's especially impressive given that the Longhorns don't really have the offensive weapons like Kevin Durant, Jordan Hamilton or J'Covan Brown that have helped to boost the offense in the past.
That's not to say that the Longhorns can't get better. Taylor is a pass-first guy, but he hasn't been able to find his teammates for open buckets in part because his teammates haven't run as well as he has to give him more options. That's demonstrated by the fact that Taylor has just eight assists through three games, giving him a low (for a point guard) assist rate of 15.5. For comparison's sake, last year Myck Kabongo was at 33.5 and Javan Felix was at 32.6. This year, playing off the ball most of the time, Felix's assist rate was 29.1. Shoot, even a guy like Brown, considered a shoot-first, shoot-second type of player, had an assist rate of 25.3 in his final year on campus.
Some of that will improve as Taylor gets more used to finding others in the halfcourt game. And it should really see a boost when he starts to get more partners streaking forward and running upcourt when he gets the ball. Until that point, even with the impressive early results, Barnes will continue to lament the fact that the Longhorns aren't running as well, as he did after the 'Horns' last game.
"We still aren't running the way we want to," Barnes said.