Texas Basketball: A Look-Ahead to Notable Non-Conference Matchups
Last week, Texas dropped its non-conference schedule for the 2021-2022 basketball season. Its marquee game, at consensus no. 1 Gonzaga, is the Longhorns' second game of the season, and will be a top-five matchup (and, according to some resources, a top-two matchup).
But that's not the only game of note on the schedule.
Texas also travels to New Jersey for a game against Seton Hall for the Big 12/Big East Challenge on December 9th, to Las Vegas to play Stanford in the Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge on December 19th, and hosts former Texas coach Rick Barnes and his 20th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers on January 9th.
Here's a general look at some of these games.
November 13th: at no. 1 Gonzaga
In what will be one of college basketball's premiere games this season, Texas heads to Spokane, WA to take on the top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs for their second game of the 2021-2022 campaign. The first of what was a home-and-home matchup set to begin last season but delayed due to COVID, Texas will face its toughest non-conference opponent for the year early on. This will be a great way to gauge where the team is and what Chris Beard has done to prepare a highly talented team but one that hasn't played together yet. On paper, Texas has the firepower to hang in with any team in the nation.
The Zags are 3-0 against the Longhorns all time in the series, with the last matchup coming in 2017, where Texas fell 76-71 in overtime in a game played in Portland, OR. They also played in 2006, where Texas lost 87-77, and again in 2001, where they came up short again, 67-64. The budding rivalry will renew with the highest-ranked matchup between the two teams in the series' history.
Gonzaga loses stars G Jalen Suggs, who went fifth overall to the Orlando Magic, and F Corey Kispert, who went 15th to the Washington Wizards, but returns Texas native and elite scorer F Drew Timme while adding two five-star prospects including Rivals top player F Chet Holmgren and PG Nolan Hickman. Additionally, they grabbed commitments from three four-stars: PG Hunter Salis, C Kaden Perry, and F Fanbo Zeng. They also bring back G Andrew Nembhard and F Anton Watson.
Even for a team as talented as this Texas roster, winning on the road at the top-ranked team in the country will be a difficult ask. If any coach is up for this challenge, however, it's Chris Beard.
December 9th: at Seton Hall
A part of the Big 12/Big East challenge, Texas plays Seton Hall, where Tony Soprano did a semester and half of college. The game will occur December 9th of this year in New Jersey. Texas has played Seton Hall three times in their history, sporting a 2-1 record, most recently in 2004, where they won, 70-64. They also played in 2002, where Texas also won, this time by a score of 78-61.
The Pirates are coming off of a year where where they struggled, going 14-13, and 10-9 in conference play, despite the presence of Big East co-player of the year F Sandro Mamukelashvili, who went 54th overall to the Milwaukee Bucks in the most recent NBA Draft. They do however return star G Jared Rhoden.
Seton Hall will most likely be a fairly easy victory for this Texas team, as the Longhorns are much more talented. Look for Chris Beard to emphasize games like these, however. Even when asked about Gonzaga in the most recent press conference, he said that the team is focusing on Houston Baptist to start the year. These are not the kind of matchups that Beard takes lightly, even though his team will be heavily favored.
December 19th: vs Stanford (Las Vegas, NV)
The Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast challenge features a contest between two academic powerhouses in Texas and Stanford. The Longhorns and Cardinal have played five times in their history. The two squads last played in the 2015-2016 season, where Texas narrowly escaped, 75-73. They played in the 2014-2015 season as well, where Stanford took the game, 74-71. In 2008, then seventh-ranked Texas took down 10th-ranked Stanford, 82-62, and in 2001, 11th-ranked Stanford fell 83-75 to the unranked Longhorns.
Stanford had a 14-13 season in 2020 affected heavily by COVID in which they had to play games in Santa Cruz, CA due to the virus regulations put into effect in Santa Clara County. They went 10-10 in conference, and lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.
Recruiting wise, Stanford had an excellent signing in five-star SF Harrison Ingram from St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas. They also signed four-star PG Isael Silva from Prolific Prep in Napa, CA.
They had their star from last season, SF Ziaire Williams, get drafted 10th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies, and lose top scorer, senior Oscar Da Silva, to Germany's professional basketball association, Basketball Bundesliga.
Despite Stanford's elite recruiting class, this is another game Texas should win. They just have too much talent on the roster to drop this game.
January 9th: vs. no. 20 Tennessee
Rick Barnes leads the 20th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers into the Erwin Center on January 9th, 2022 to take on his former team. Texas hasn't played against Tennessee since 2007, where the 15th-ranked Longhorns upset the seventh-ranked Volunteers, 97-78. They also played in 2006, where Tennessee prevailed, 111-105; in 2005, in which the Volunteers again won, this time 95-78; and in 2004, where Texas topped their SEC foe, 95-70. This will be a fun preview of what is to come in the future with the move to a new conference for Texas.
This year, the Volunteers bring with them the highest-rated SEC recruiting class, which includes the top-ranked PG in 2021, five-star Kennedy Chandler, who is a true freshman with a high ceiling and probable first-round NBA talent. They also bring in another five-star in C Jonas Aidoo, as well as four stars PF Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and SF Jahmai Mashack.
From a talent level, Tennessee will be a really tough opponent for Texas, but the Longhorns have an advantage in experience, which is everything in college basketball. The Volunteers have a host of blue-chip recruits, but Chris Beard's squad has a host of players who have already done it at the college level. This will be a great coaching battle between two of the best in the business. By the time this game rolls around, this could be a top-10 matchup.