A Smart Defense
Havoc, in its truest sense, will finally rear its ugly, destructive head at opposing offenses. Confirmation of this comes in the impending arrival of St. Stephen's center and future NBA top-10 pick Jarrett Allen.
Former coach Rick Barnes' downfall was exacerbated, in large part, due to his growing inability to win the talent-wealthy state of Texas. Where Barnes lost ground – nationally and within the state – each year following Kevin Durant's departure, the energetic Shaka Smart has quickly picked up the slack, accumulating two of the state's five McDonald's All-Americans, in Allen and dynamic shooting guard Andrew Jones (MacArthur, Irving).
On-court projections for the team, however, aren't quite as settled. There is one certainty: The 2016-17 team will look much more like the team Smart envisioned on his arrival. Having shed a lot of the (literal and figurative) weight – with Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert, and Cameron Ridley moving on – future iterations of Longhorn basketball will be long, lithe, and lethal. However, the main quality Smart will ask for, aside from his trademark "connectedness," is unmitigated stinginess.
Having the 6'10" Allen, with his 7'5" wingspan, patrolling the middle will help things. He's a competitor willing to contest anything at the rim and has a chance to dominate the boards once he adds some weight. Rising senior banger Shaquille Cleare, four-star shooting big James Banks, and three-point specialist Mareik Isom, an incoming graduate transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock, fill out a diverse front line, featuring much-needed versatility.
While Allen can shore up problems on the back end, Smart's press is predicated on hungry Dobermans eating into possessions before the offense gets into their sets, harassing offenses into turnovers and/or consistently shorter shot clocks. This requires the new guard in the backcourt – true sophomores Eric Davis, Kerwin Roach, and Tevin Mack, plus the explosive Jones, a future lottery selection – to viciously attack ball handlers.
Having Allen allows Smart to employ Havoc from game 1, starting five skilled athletes who can run other teams ragged on both sides of the ball. Threes will fly, and the Horns should rack up record amounts of points off turnovers.
And there will be dunks – lots of them.