1. Shaquille Cleare will end up being Texas’ best big man by the time March rolls around – It didn’t take long for Cleare, the Maryland transfer to assert himself down low. He immediately went over his left shoulder with a right hook to start the game’s scoring and continuously got position inside while being guarded by Cameron Ridley.
He ran the court extremely well for a player his size finishing with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He also hit 3-of-4 free throws, which is important because it shows that he has some touch as a shooter. He was hitting jumpers with consistency in warmups, though he was never asked to take any during the game.
Cleare had four fouls, which is a bit of a concern with how touchy these new fouls are. But if he can stay on the court he is going to do some damage.
Don’t sleep on his passing skills either. Demarcus Holland told me in Kansas City that Cleare was one of the best passers on the team. He had a few tonight that raised some brows.
2. Kerwin Roach will be Texas’ most exciting freshman – He had a game-high 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including going 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also created contact and made 6-of-8 free throws.
The kid can flat out play. You can tell the coaching staff thinks the world of him.
Smart said the key for him is going to be his assist-to-turnover ratio. If he can keep that around 2-to-1 he’ll be just fine. Tonight he had five bunnies and three turnovers. Not bad.
He’s electric in every sense of the word. Will be very interesting to see how Texas moves when he and Isaiah Taylor are on the court together. Look for Roach to play the 2 most of the time in those situations.
3. Tevin Mack will be Texas’ most productive freshman - It’s been a while since the Longhorns had someone with Mack’s skillset and size.
Holland said he wasn’t so sure about him when he first saw Mack because he was a little loose with the ball. But Holland said he’s really improved in that area and has never seen a shot that he doesn’t like. You could tell both of those things to be true on Wednesday.
Mack finished with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting (only Taylor took more shots with 14) to go along with four rebounds and two assists.
I just think his length, which will allow him to play the 4 at times, is going to be a problem for some of the smaller guys he goes up against. He’s also got the quickness to blow by bigger defenders in those instances where he is the smaller player on the block.
He’s extremely active and can really shoot from the outside (2-of-3). Roach will be the flashier player but Mack will be the more productive.
4. The Longhorns will play 12 guys regularly dependent on the progression of two players: Jordan Barnett and Kendall Yancy - Smart said it himself after the game, he wants to play a lot of players because of the style of play he wants. He’ll be able to do that without question if Barnett shows the confidence in himself that he showed on Wednesday and Yancy brings the fire that he played with too.
There’s no doubt that Barnett has the ability – he can jump out the gym and was known as a more than capable scorer in high school. His jumper just wasn’t falling for him last season. Much of that has to do with what was going on in between his ears.
Smart is trying to get him to believe in himself a little bit more and you started to see signs of him coming around on Wednesday. He wasn’t hesitant in pulling the trigger from the outside [made 1 of 2 treys) and rolled perfectly into a made jumper at the free throw line off a nice feed from Roach.
He had nine points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Much of the same can be said about Yancy and how his confidence level and want-to needs to expand in order for him to see consistent PT.
He was great in the scrimmage hitting all four of his attempts, including one trey, for nine points to go along with a game-high three steals.
I thought he did a great job for Texas last season when he stepped in at the starting PG when Taylor went down early. If he can bring that same energy to the team this season I think there is room for him in the rotation.
Minutes are going to be harder to come by this season even though Smart might play more guys. These freshmen are talented and are going to play. He’s a bigger guard who can do some things defensively. Bring the effort he brought tonight and he should be fine.
5. For those that think that Texas can’t shoot the ball, Eric Davis Jr. will make you think differently – Buckets. Some people are just born to score. Roach is one of those guys because of his handle, dribble penetration, and ability to play above the rim.
Davis is a bit different in his approach, but he can fill it up nonetheless.
He’s got the prettiest shot on the team and it’s going to fall for him more often than not. He got four of his nine shots to fall on Wednesday, including hitting all six free throws, to compile 16 points.
By the time he leaves the 40 Acres you’ll be thinking to yourself, “That’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen come through Texas in 10 years.” Mark it down.
6. This team will get past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament – It hasn’t happened in, what, seven years. But I truly believe that this team has the potential to get to the Sweet 16 in Smart’s first season.
What are vital to a team’s success in March? It varies, of course, but largely you’d like to see an experienced team with solid guard play, at least one consistent sharp-shooter, a great in-game coach, and enough size to both wear out opponents offensively and frustrate them defensively.
If Texas doesn’t have all of those things right now, they’ll have them by the time they touch down in Kansas City for the Big 12 Tournament where seeding will be up for grabs.
I don’t know, I just think this team will finish better than fourth in the Big 12, take their lumps, sure, but will be plenty battle-tested enough to make some noise in the Big Dance.
Call me crazy, it wouldn’t be the first time.
7. Javan Felix is going to drive you crazy, but live with it because he’ll come through in the clutch at some point – Mark it down: Felix will save Texas in at least two late-game situations this season.
Sure, it might come after you’ve pulled out your hair or gone into the other room to another TV because the one you were originally watching currently has a remote stuck in its screen. But that’s OK. Felix is going to Felix but then he’s going to flex you somebody, just wait.
The way that the Longhorns are going to play is going to mean that Felix is going to take his fair share of transition jumpers. He’s not going to stop shooting. That’s him and that’s what the staff wants from him.
Yeah, but William, he was only 3-of-11 in the scrimmage, and hit only one of his five three-point attempts.
Patience my friends. Patience.
8. Cameron Ridley will have his most productive season as a Longhorn this season – It’s as much a mental game with Ridley as anything. Smart said it after the game that he feels like he thinks that Ridley is better than Ridley thinks Ridley is better. If that changes, and Ridley remembers just how damn big he is, he’s going to do some damage.
He started to assert himself in the second half, messed around and ended up with a double-double [12 points and 12 rebounds].
I think Cleare is going to help bring out the beast/best in Ridley.
9. If you polled the Texas coaching staff right now and at the end of the season and asked them who their favorite player is/was, it would be unanimous in favor of Demarcus Holland - The dude just gets it. It doesn’t hurt to have the skill that Holland possesses, but so much of his game is want-to and attitude. He has to be one of the to handful of on-ball defenders in the country and has amazed me at how much he’s improved at finishing around the rim. Like Smart told us in K.C. on Tuesday, he wishes he had a whole team full of Holland’s.
10. Texas’ 2016 recruiting class will be really, really good. But UT will have a top 5-10 class in 2017 – Once recruits get a big enough sample size of Smart at Texas to base their decisions on I think they’ll start lining up to be a part of what he’s building. The Longhorns need the season to start in a hurry for the sake of the 2016 recruits, but I know they feel like they are in a great spot with 2017. If they have the success I think they’ll have this season the Longhorns should be in great shape.