Big 12 Sports Articles

Texas Longhorns 2020-21 Basketball Season in Review

NCAA Basketball: Texas at West Virginia

The Texas Longhorns have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, so we take a look back in this Texas Longhorns 2020-21 basketball season in review.

Note: Updated to reflect Kai Jones declaring for the NBA Draft on March 24. Updated to reflect that head coach Shaka Smart left for Marquette on March 25.

Recap

Record: 19-8 (11-6 in Big 12)

Postseason: The Longhorns lost to Abilene Christian, 53-52, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns did win their first Big 12 Tournament championship.

Seniors/lettermen losing: G Matt Coleman III (13.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.2 spg); F Jericho Sims (9.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg 1.1 bpg); F Kai Jones (8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Jase Febres (5.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg); F Royce Hamm Jr. (1.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg – submitted his name to the transfer portal); F Blake Nevins; G Drayton Whiteside, G Donovan Williams (submitted his name to the transfer portal), Gerald Liddell (left program in January, submitted name to the transfer portal).

Note: NCAA rules allow all players to trigger an extra year of eligibility for the 2021-22 season due to COVID-19. These seniors have the choice to return based on that rule.

Any One-and-dones or early entries?: Kai Jones declared for the NBA Draft on March 24. Greg Brown, Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey all have the potential to leave early.

 

Who’s Back and Who’s New?

Any NBA Bound?: Greg Brown was the No. 9 player in the 2020 national recruiting class and is considered by some to be a first-round pick. Jones, who rose from relatively obscurity to potential NBA Lottery pick status by season’s end, declared on March 24 and is ranked by TheAthletic.com’s Sam Vecenie as his No. 9 overall prospect. If Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey left early, it would be an uphill battle to get into the NBA this year (neither are popping up in mock drafts). Among the seniors, Jericho Sims and Matt Coleman III have the best shots at finding jobs in the NBA, though they’re unlikely to be drafted.

Any transfers: Center Will Baker transferred to Nevada in January. Gerald Liddell, Donovan Williams, and Royce Hamm Jr. submitted their names to the transfer portal after the season.

Top players expected to return: G Andrew Jones (14.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg); G Courtney Ramey (12.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.0 spg); F Gerald Liddell (2.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg); Kamaka Hepa (2.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg); Brock Cunningham (1.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg).

The player(s) you don’t know about: As bizarre as this may seem, we’ve covered every relevant Longhorn coming that could come back next season.

2021 recruiting class: G Tamar Bates, 6-foot-4, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida; G Emarion Ellis, 6-foot-5, Assumption, Davenport, Iowa; David Joplin, 6-foot-7, Brookfield Central, Brookfield, Wisconsin; Keeyan Itejere, 6-foot-9, Grace Christian School, Raleigh, North Carolina.

All are in the 247Sports.com Top 200 nationally. All are Top 10 recruits in their respective states. Bates, Ellis, and Joplin are in the Top 20 nationally at their positions. There may be considerable pressure on Joplin and Itejere to be ‘ready’ sooner than should be expected, if the Longhorns have a dearth of help in the frontcourt. At least with Coleman and Ramey back, Bates and Ellis can ease into a role.

Note: Bates said on March 29 that he was seeking a release from his LIO via Twitter. This came four days after head coach Shaka Smart left for Marquette. We will update this if Texas grants the request.

Commitments yet to sign: None.

 

Summarizing the season

On one hand, it was the best of times. For the first time, it seemed as if the Longhorns were fulfilling the vision that head coach Shaka Smart had for the program. The Longhorns got off to a scorching start. Texas pushed itself to No. 4 in the country at one point. Andrew Jones was finally back to his pre-cancer form and punishing Big 12 defenses. In fact, the guards — Jones, Courtney Ramey, and Matt Coleman III — were playing like a trio of alpha dogs at times. Jericho Sims had another year of steady improvement inside, while Kai Jones opened the eyes of both Texas fans and NBA scouts by extending his game outside the paint, putting the ball on the floor, and hitting 3-pointers. Greg Brown gave the Longhorns a dose of athleticism they really needed in the frontcourt, even if his overall game needed refinement. After COVID issues put them on the defensive in late January, Texas won eight of their final 10 games going into the NCAA Tournament, which included winning the Big 12 Tournament championship for the first time in program history. And then came Abilene Christian. The Longhorns regressed, committing a season-high 22 turnovers and seemed so flustered with the ACU defense that they didn’t know what to do. The Longhorns lost the game, 53-52, and became the first Texas team to lose in the first round as a Top 4 seed since 1979. It was a sour end to what had been, to that point, a sweet season.

Looking ahead to 2021-22

After a 0-3 record in the NCAA Tournament punctuated by the loss to Abilene Christian, Smart found a golden parachute in taking the Marquette job on March 25. It saved Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte from having to make a difficult decision, and it saved Smart from getting fired. So, task one is for Del Conte to find his replacement. Next, we’ll have to see exactly WHO comes back for Texas. It’s not just Jones, who is already on hi way to the NBA, and Brown, who could follow him. It’s all the seniors that the Longhorns have on the roster, all of which can trigger an extra year of eligibility, thanks to the NCAA. Will Jericho Sims come back? Jase Febres? Matt Coleman III? That would help ease what could be a tremendous amount of turnover on this roster. If everyone goes, then it’s Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, and a ton of young, relatively untested players and a rock-solid recruiting class (assuming there are no more defections). Plus, there would be no front court talent to speak of for Texas, so the new coach might have to dip into the transfer market to find some help there. However you look at it, next year’s Texas team will not look anything like next year’s Texas team. At this point, it’s just the degree to which it will be different.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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