Head Coach: Shaka Smart
Kenpom: 43 (UConn is 28th, but KenPom predicts a 71-69 loss)
Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns have rattled off six straight wins including impressive victories over then-No. 3 North Carolina and on the road against Stanford. The Longhorns' season started 2-3, including a 1-2 showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis, losing to in-state rival Texas A&M, 84-73 and Michigan, 78-72.
The Longhorns have since excelled in close games. In their 84-82 win over North Carolina, Javan Felix hit a mid-range jumper as time expired for the win. The Longhorns shot 46.8% from the field and 12-24 from three in the upset effort. In their 75-73 win over Stanford, junior Isaiah Taylor scored two of his 26 points on a floater to give his team the lead with two seconds left.
While Shaka Smart is known for his famed "Havoc" defense, he has been cautious in using it. He barely used it in the win over North Carolina, mostly because he did not want to get in a track meet with the Tar Heels. We may not see much of it against UConn either. On offense, Smart has been primarily using three ball-screen offensive sets: Horns, Back Screen-Ball screen, and Down Screen-Ball Screen. It is imperative that the Huskies are constantly communicating and know where the ball and their man is or else they will be burned many times against this offense.
Statistically, the Longhorns are 43rd in Kenpom's adjusted offensive efficiency and 73rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Texas ranks in the top third in most major categories including points per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds per game, and points allowed. The Longhorns are averaging 76.9 PPG while shooting 45.1% from the floor and 37.9% from behind the arc and are averaging 38.3 rebounds per game while allowing 67.9 PPG.
During Sunday's practice, Texas' 6-foot-10, 290-pound center Cameron Ridley broke his foot and will be sidelined indefinitely. This bodes well for UConn. Ridley was averaging 12.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 3.4 BPG while shooting 63.2% from the field, even though he shot a brutal 39.2% from the free throw line. Ridley's absence helps UConn make up for the absence of Amida Brimah.
#12 Kerwin Roach Jr, Freshman, Guard (6-4, 170): 6.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 37.5% FG, 7-24 3PT in 18.0 MPG
Roach was the 47th-ranked prospect out of high school, according to ESPN, and has immediately broken into Shaka Smart's rotation. He is a great athlete who will compete on Texas's Track and Field team during the outdoor season. The freshman is coming off one of his best games of the season, a 14-point performance in the win over Stanford.
#2 Demarcus Holland, Senior, Guard (6-3, 190): 4.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 44.7% FG, 4-13 3PT in 19.2 MPG
Holland is the team's best defender but has seen his minutes go down in the past five games. In Texas' first six games of the season, he averaged 25.3 MPG but is only averaging 11.8 MPG in his last five games. It seems that Smart is just looking for more offensive production, especially out of his freshmen.
#1 Isaiah Taylor, Junior, Guard (6-3, 185): 14.7 PPG, 5.1 APG, 44.1% FG, 6-20 3PT, 58-76 FT
Taylor is the team's best offensive player and leads the team in PPG and APG. He is at his best when attacking the hoop where he can finish strong, dish to an open teammate, or get to the free throw line. The junior guard has scored in double figures eight times this season and at least 20 points three times. The fact that Shaka Smart has implemented a number of ball-screen offensive sets has helped Taylor out immensely as he can get into the lane with much more ease.
#3 Javan Felix, Senior, Guard (5-11, 205): 10.4 PPG, 50.6% FG, 25-49 3PT
Felix is off to a fantastic start in his senior season as he has scored in double figures seven times this season, including a 25 point performance against the Tar Heels. The senior isn't able to create much for himself or others off the dribble, but they can count on him to knock down open perimeter shots. Felix has made a three-pointer in all but two games this season.
#21 Connor Lammert, Senior, Forward (6-10, 235): 5.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 40.7% FG, 14-38 3PT
With Ridley out, Lammert is going to need to step up his offensive game big time. He can stretch the floor as a shooter while playing the stretch four, and if he is playing the five, he can take opposing team's big men away from the hoop to open up the floor for Texas' talented guards. Lammert has only scored in double figures one time this season as he finished with 12 points against Texas A&M-CC.
#10 Eric Davis Jr., Freshman, Guard (6-2, 185): 9.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 41.8% FG, 18-42 3PT
Davis was the number 45th ranked prospect according to ESPN and is a dynamic scorer who can put the ball in the hoop from anywhere on the court. The lefty is very gifted on offense and has scored in double figures five times this season. Davis scored 16 points in the win over North Carolina, shooting 6-10 from the field and 4-5 from three.
Texas is coached by Shaka Smart who is in his first season with the program. Smart was widely recognized as the head coach of VCU, where he went 163-56 in six seasons. The Rams had plenty of success under the young coach as they made the NCAA Tournament five out of the six seasons, including a Final Four appearance in the 2010-2011 season before ultimately losing to Butler (who would go on to lose to UConn in the championship). Before VCU, Smart was an assistant coach at California University of Pennsylvania, Akron, Clemson, and Florida. Smart has a career record of 171-59.