No team has shocked the country quite as much as Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns. Sure, no one expected Wichita State to be undefeated at this point, but the Shockers returned the core of a team that went to the Final Four a year ago. Villanova’s success has been surprising, but Jay Wright also returned the majority from a team that went dancing last season.
Texas appeared likely to be headed for an NIT berth -- or even a return trip to the CBI this season. The Longhorns were decimated in the offseason, losing their top four scorers from a team that couldn’t even make the NIT.
Instead, life is good in Austin, Texas, for 59-year-old Barnes. No one is missing Myck Kabongo, who declared for the NBA draft and is playing in the D-League. No one is talking about how Sheldon McClellan (Miami) and Julien Lewis (Fresno State) transferred elsewhere -- or how Ioannis Papapetrou decided to leave abruptly and play pro ball back in his homeland of Greece.
Texas is 20-6 and sits in second place in the Big 12 behind perennial league power Kansas. The Longhorns are a team this season, with chemistry, physical toughness and mental resolve.
But a ceiling remains on this team, one that still lacks a true superstar.