Pa John Fanta
By FOX Sports College Basketball

Editor’s Note: John Fanta is counting down his top 15 college basketball teams heading into the 2022-2023 season. Entry to No. 12 is available Texas.

Is Texas back?

Wait! Before you stop reading, we’re not talking about the debate that college football pundits start every September. This is about the Longhorns basketball program.

Austin has momentum. Texas has one of the sport’s coaching stars in Chris Byrd, entering his second season. The Hornets won an NCAA Tournament game last season, ending an eight-year drought on the dance floor. They return their top two scorers from a 22-12 team and open as the No. 3 ranked recruit according to 247 Sports. Beard and his staff also executed a portal transfer with one of the cheers of the offseason.

To top it all off, the program opens a new home this season, the Moody Center, which will be located in the middle of campus and should give the Longhorns a stronger home court advantage than they have had in the past. that an alum like Beard admires.

With plenty of talent and the right leadership, there are plenty of reasons to buy into Texas this upcoming season. Will the Longhorns reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008?

Let’s take a deeper dive into the team ranked No. 12 in the country in our preseason rankings.

Which players are back?

There’s no shortage of returning talent to work with, including three starters who each earned All-Big 12 marks last season. Better yet, all three players are in their fifth year of college basketball.

Marcus Carr will help lead the backcourt, averaging 11.4 points and 3.4 assists per game in his debut season after transferring from Minnesota. The question for Carr is whether he can come close to the numbers he put up two years ago with the Golden Gophers, when he averaged 19.4 points and 4.9 assists per game.

Texas also has a dynamic 6-foot-6 wing Timmy Allen back. A second-team All-Big 12 selection last season Utah transfer averaged 12.1 points and 6.4 boards en route to second-team all-league honors.

Texas is back at the forefront a Christian bishopa 6-foot-7 forward who will be asked to do more after posting 7.0 points and 5.6 boards per game last season.

The rest of the back is a 6-foot-9 senior forward Dylan Dees and a 6-foot-6 senior wing Brock Cunningham. Neither could do much offensively, but both played double-digit minutes per game for the Beard. Disu came to the program with Vanderbilt after averaging 15.0 points and 9.2 boards as a sophomore. Could he grow into a bigger role after a developmental offseason? We will see.

While the guards Andrew Jones and Courtney Remyas well as forward Tre Mitchellmay disappear, a solid core remains in place.

Who’s new on the list?

The Longhorns have one of the top three classes in the country because Beard has secured a pair of five-star commitments.

Texas will have no shortage of firepower on the perimeter with the addition of 6-foot-7 wing Dylan Mitchell (5th-ranked 2022 recruit) and 6-foot-3 point guard Arterio Morris (17th-ranked recruit 2022). Program.

Mitchell is a long and versatile small forward who is one of the most athletically gifted players in this freshman class. With his speed, ability to attack the rim and a solid set of defensive skills, the Montverde Academy product is a natural winger. His defense is what the Beards found so attractive when they recruited him, and all signs point to him starting.

As for Morris, he will likely fill a rotation role and could offer Texas another dimension with his quick burst and downhill ability.

On the transfer front, Bird and his staff had a top player to replace the departed Raimi and Jones, and the Longhorns snapped him up.

Iowa State transmission Tyrese Hunter, the Big 12’s reigning freshman, was one of the more prominent names available in the spring. He decided to stay for the conference, going to Austin. His decision, which became official on May 27, created a wave of headlines throughout college basketball. That’s the main reason Texas is ranked No. 12 in our preseason poll, because what Hunter did in his first year in the tough Big 12 spoke volumes.

A 6-foot guard, Hunter helped lead Iowa State to a surprise season and NCAA Tournament run, averaging 11.0 points, 4.9 assists and 3.0 boards. Be on the lookout if he can improve on his 39% from the field last season.

With his size and skill set, Hunter doesn’t really show up NBA A draft prospect, but that’s in Beard’s favor. The Wisconsin native was a freshman, still has a high ceiling and will likely stick around for two or three seasons. This is a complete win on the recruiting trail.

Another addition Beard made to the portal was State of New Mexico transmission Sir Jabari Rice. Another fifth-year player on the Longhorns’ roster, Rice is a winner and could be an underrated weapon. The 6-foot-4 guard helped the Aggies win the WAC Tournament championship last season and was also taken in the first round End in the NCAA tournament. Averaging 11.9 points, 5.1 boards and 3.1 assists, he brings 111 college basketball games to the program and knows what winning looks like.

Key questions…

As for the Longhorns, much of what they do this season will be determined by how Beard manages the combination of returning experience and impactful additions. There is no shortage of talent on the roster.

What Carr ends up doing will be huge for this team. At best, he could be an All-American talent. Allen and Bishop are expected to make up the starting frontcourt, and it’s also important that Bishop, Creighton show, is making the jump in his second season with the program.

The team managed by the Beard never worries about the defense. Texas ranked 14th in defensive efficiency by KenPom last season.

[40 storylines to watch for the 2022-23 season]

This is an offense and what happens from the perimeter will be a big key. Texas lost its top three shooters in Jones, Remy and Febras, and even with them, the Horns weren’t particularly strong from beyond the arc. They finished sixth out of 10 in the Big 12 with 6.6 3-pointers per game and were fifth in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage at 33%.

Can the Longhorns find different ways to beat defenses with Hunter, Mitchell and Rice?

The other big question is how will life be in the Big 12? The Longhorns may be No. 12 in our preseason rankings, but they’re only No. 1 four teams from the league in this countdown. This conference is tight and Texas will have no shortage of challenges.

Non-conference schedule highlights

How about the Nov. 16 game in Austin vs Gonzaga? It’s a non-conference highlight for the Longhorns, who will also be at home to a potential top-10 team, Creighton, on Dec. 1. In five nights, Texas will travel to New York to play Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic. On December 18, a match with A. will take place in Dallas Stanford a program that could be a contender in the Pac-12.

In the middle of their conference-gloves with the participation of the like Kansas, Baylor, TCU and Texas Techthe Longhorns also have a big road test Tennessee in the SEC / Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 28.

Top 15 Countdown:

No. 15: San Diego State

– No. 14: Vilanova

– No. 13: Indiana

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from hosting games on FS1 to serving as the lead anchor on the BIG EAST Digital Network and providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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