Record: 19-15 (8-10 Big 12)
NCAA: lost to Nevada, 87-83, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Seniors losing: G Isaiah Hobbs (no stats in 2017-18), G Joe Schwartz (0 points in 5 minutes played in 2017-18), F Ryan McClurg (4 points in 6 minutes played in 2017-18).
Any NBA Bound?: None
Any One-and-dones or early entries?: Mo Bamba (has not announced his decision to go to the NBA at the time of this story’s publication).
Top players returning: G Andrew Jones (13.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg), F Dylan Osetkowski (13.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), F Mo Bamba (12.9 ppg, 10.5 rpg), G Kerwin Roach II (12.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.6 apg), G Matt Coleman (10.2 ppg, 4.1 apg), G Eric Davis Jr. (8.8 ppg), G Jacob Young (6.2 ppg), F Jericho Sims (5.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
The player you don’t know about: F James Banks III. The 6-foot-10 center was confined to the back of the bench with the signing of Mo Bamba, but he ranked second on the team with 39 blocks as a freshman. He was a Top 50 national recruit when Texas signed him, and with the potential departure of Bamba to the NBA, next season is the perfect time to show why he received that ranking.
Recruits already in the house: SF Gerald Liddell, 6-foot-6, Cibolo, Texas (Steele HS); PF Kamaka Hepa, 6-foot-9, Portland, Oregon (Jefferson HS); PF Jaxson Hayes, 6-foot-10, Cincinnati, Ohio (Archbishop Moeller HS); SF Brock Cunningham, 6-foot-7, Austin, Texas (Westlake). Texas has the No. 2 recruiting class in the Big 12, according to 247Sports.com. Liddell and Hepa are significant gets, as both are Top 100 recruits in the country and Top 2 recruits in their respective states. All four are top 50 players at their positions and all four are already signed. Liddell and Hepa could contribute right away.
Commitments yet to sign: With only three players departing the program and four players already signed, the Longhorns don’t have any further hard commitments at this time.
Summarizing the season: There is a level of disappointment to this season for Texas, even though it bounced back from an 11-win season and played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Losing Jones in January to leukemia treatment was a significant blow, and it’s telling about the makeup of this team that by season’s end Jones remained the team’s leading scorer, even if it was only by one-tenth of a point over Osetkowski. No one quite stepped up to be that dominant force consistently, although Osetkowski, Roach, Bamba and Davis took turns. A winning season is never anything to be down about, but Texas’ early exit against Nevada, a team that had lost to two Big 12 teams this season, was a sign of Texas’ overall inconsistency in 2017-18.
Looking ahead to 2018-19: I’m not sure there is another Big 12 team that can say that its Top 10 scorers are set to come back for next season. But, of course, there are caveats. Jones is showing good progress in battling leukemia, but that doesn’t mean he will play next season (though I suspect that’s what he is aiming for). Bamba seems to be a sure lock to go to the NBA, but he hasn’t confirmed it yet. Davis did not play the final few weeks of the season after his name popped up in the NCAA/FBI investigation. He has another year of eligibility left, but will he play? Those are significant question marks. The good news is Roach proved he can be a No. 1 option offensively, Coleman made significant strides as a point guard, Sims showed in limited duty that he can be a worthy starter inside if Bamba leaves and Osetkowski emerged as the team’s Swiss Army knife player. If Texas manages to keep everyone set to come back, they can be a winning team in Big 12 action. If not, then Texas will have to rely on some of that young talent coming in to contribute right away. As for Smart’s job, it’s not in jeopardy but the disappointment of this season stings. Texas has plenty invested in Smart, and it would be wise for him to make sure the Longhorns show progress in 2018-19 (an NCAA Tournament win next season would be key). But the makeup of who will help him show that progress is a bit up in the air.