The Longhorns basketball program has had a good start to the season with wins over Northwestern State, New Hampshire, and Lipscomb. However, those are games you should expect to win. The PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon should prove to be a far better assessment of where the Longhorns stand in terms of competitiveness this year.
The PK80 Tournament is set to be one of the premier early-season events for college basketball this year. There are 16 total teams competing in two separate brackets that are coming together to celebrate the 80th birthday of Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight. Other top programs like Duke and North Carolina will be represented in the tournament as well. The first round matchup between Butler and Texas is one of the most intriguing across both brackets. That being said, let’s take a look at what to expect from both teams heading into Thursday’s game.
Butler Bulldogs (3-1)
Butler’s only loss this season came at the hands of Maryland, 79-65. They were able to bounce back against Furman with the help of Sean McDermott, who scored 17 points in back-to-back games. Over the last two games against Maryland and Furman, McDermott has scored 34 points while contributing five assists. He also shot 57.1% from beyond the arc. Paul Jorgensen, the transfer from George Washington, scored a career-high 16 points off the bench on 7 of 10 shooting. The Bulldogs shot an impressive 57.4 percent from the floor as a team against Furman.
This could prove to be a major test for the Texas’ frontcourt. Butler has an 82 point advantage over opponents this season in points in the paint. Along with top returning players such as Kelan Martin, Taylor Wideman, and Kamar Baldwin, the freshman Aaron Thompson has been an important contributor in the backcourt. Chemistry will be crucial for the new head coach LaVall Jordan if he wants to have success this season. A win over Texas would certainly be a step in the right direction for Jordan and the Bulldogs.
Texas Longhorns (3-0)
After an abysmal 11-22 season last year, coach Shaka Smart was able to reload with talent, including the addition of Mohamed Bamba in the frontcourt. Bamba is a top 5 freshman in the country. On top of having a promising offensive repertoire, the freshman has recorded an incredible nine blocks. This season, the Longhorns have every intention of reaching the NCAA tournament. Although Texas is 3-0 to start, they have yet to be tested, something coach Smart was willing to admit openly.
Although Mohamed Bamba is without question the most exciting player, leading the team in scoring with 14 PPG, juniors Kerwin Roach and Dylan Osetkowski have also scored in double-digits for the Longhorns so far. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that four-star recruit and freshman Matt Coleman has been impressive. He’s averaging 3.3 assists per game all while giving up only 0.3 turnovers in each contest.
These two teams appear to be very evenly matched. Mo Bamba gives the Longhorns a chance to control the paint and dominate the glass both offensively and defensively. However, the 3-point shooting from Butler could prove to be the difference in this game. Although Texas holds opponents to just 23.5% from three point range, Butler is shooting 33.7% from deep. That may not be an impressive stat within itself for the Bulldogs, but with very experienced shooters like McDermott and Martin, they can catch fire at any time.