Texas did it. They finally managed to do what countless programs could not: Lure the game’s hottest mid-major head coaching candidate away from VCU. Four years after bursting onto scene while leading the Rams to the Final Four, Shaka Smart departed Richmond for Austin in one of the most intriguing coaching moves we’ve ever seen.
The fireball of a coach inherits a talented roster that features substantial experience with six upperclassmen in Isaiah Taylor, Connor Lammert, Demarcus Holland, Javan Felix, Kendal Yancy and Cameron Ridley, all of which averaged 20-plus minutes during their 20-win 2014-15 campaign. Taylor has Big 12 Player of the Year potential and the frontcourt combo of Lammert and Ridley could reach a new level during the final season, that is assuming they can run the floor with speed and precision, as required by all of Smart’s players, including the big men.
Head Coach: Shaka Smart (First Year)
2014-15 Finish: 20-14 (Lost to Butler in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament)
2014-15 Conference Finish: 8-10 (Sixth Place in the Big 12 Conference)
Projected 2015-16 Conference Finish: Sixth
*G – Isaiah Taylor – Junior
*G – Demarcus Holland – Senior
*F – Connor Lammert – Senior
*F – Cameron Ridley – Senior
G – Kendal Yancy – Junior
Smart’s first recruiting class wasn’t extraordinary, as often is the case after whispers of a dismissal (Rick Barnes) hover over a program and the new coach takes over when most teams have already plucked their recruits, but he does have a few intriguing freshman joining the Longhorns. One player that could help immediately is 6-6 guard/forward Tevin Mack from South Carolina. His game somewhat resembles departed forward Jonathan Holmes but with more versatility and willingness to attack defenders, not to mention he has a smooth stroke from beyond the arc.