For the first time in almost a decade, the Texas Longhorns basketball team started its season 9-1 and 3-0 in conference play with a 84-59 blowout win over No. 3 Iowa State Tuesday. Some fans are wondering, with this early success, what has been the difference between this season and previous ones under Head Coach Shaka Smart?
In a season undermined by a pandemic, a lack of fans and game cancellations, you might think that Texas would struggle out of the gate. Other programs have. But the Longhorns have found success by playing with an edge.
Texas might have had the best college basketball win so far this season when they traveled to Allen Fieldhouse to take on Kansas last Saturday. The 25-point win propelled Texas to No. 4 in the country and has the entire college basketball world looking to Austin and sixth-year coach Smart for clues about the turnaround.
"Results on the court are first and foremost going to be a function of the improvement that players have made," Smart said at this week's press conference. "The ability of the players to be connected around winning and around what goes into winning. I think anytime that you're able to win a significant game that's an indication of that."
Smart attributes the early season success on the court to confidence, defense and chemistry.
The cliche that "confidence is the key to success" applies to Texas this season.
Texas has found a system on offense that relies on trusting their guards to make the right decisions when running the offense and having their big men rebound and set screens.
"Everything is opening up now," 6-foot-10 forward Jericho Sims said. "I think if I get to the rim and make a lot of people collapse on me, then that really opens up the floor for everybody else."
When you watch the Longhorns play, there is a sense of purpose that may have been missing during stretches last season. Sims and freshmen Greg Brown are both in the top 10 for rebounds in the Big 12 and in the top 50 nationally.
Senior guards Matt Coleman and Andrew Jones and junior Country Ramey on the court. (University of Texas Athletics)
The Longhorns have also found confidence in the formidable trio of senior guards Matt Coleman and Andrew Jones and junior Country Ramey. Together, the three upperclassmen have figured out different ways in every game this season to put the Longhorns in situations to win. Only Texas and Saturday's opponent West Virginia have three players averaging more than 13 points this season in the Big 12.
"I think our guys definitely have more confidence and expect to win," Smart said. "Definitely felt that on Saturday (against Kansas), but it's a fine line. What we like to tell the players as coaches: 'Expect to win, but expect to do what goes into winning.'"
"When you have a lead, if you keep the other team from scoring," Smart said, "then you're not going to lose the lead."
Every Shaka Smart team has one thing in common, a defensive philosophy that pressures shooters and doesn't allow driving lanes into the paint. The three most recent players that Texas has sent to the NBA—Jarrett Allen, Mo Bamba and Jaxon Hayes—have been shot blockers and defensive standouts who had to work on their offensive games once they got to the pros.
The Longhorns have kept their opponents shooting under 40% early in the season. The Big 12 can be one of the best conferences week in and week out, with different types of lineups and different defensive looks. Texas has to try to match the energy and intensity of each opponent they face.
"On the defensive end our guys have done a really good job playing with energy," Smart said. "But we also know that that's not a given. It's something that we've got to make sure that we bring. As I tell the guys all the time, it starts with our edge. We have to have an edge about us."
With 10 upperclassmen on the team, it's easy to see how teamwork and experience have created successful chemistry.
"We're a group of guys that really worked on our games over the offseason and really looked to improve and be better as a team," Jones said. "We trust each other, we trust our work and we don't really get down about shot selections that guys take. We just trust each player is going to make the right play."
The team celebrates on the court. (University of Texas Athletics)
The group is connected to each other, a foundation laid when Coach Smart came to Texas.
"You got a group of guys who have really bought into the culture and who we are and want to be," Jones said. "I wouldn't necessarily say it's a culture shift, it's more of our culture finally being noticed and brought to light with our connectivity."
And like so many things, the "confidence, defense and connectivity" that binds this team together can be traced back to another CDC—Chris Del Conte, University of Texas at Austin Athletic Director. Many ADs might have cut bait with Smart, who came from success at mid-major VCU, when he missed the tournament in 2017, or when the Longhorns lost by four to Nevada in the first round. Instead, Del Conte stuck with Smart and fans are starting to see the culture that the Longhorns head coach has been trying to build—and some wished to see the football team reflect this growth. Smart has now outlasted two football coaches and is proving to be worth it.
Who knew that Tom Herman was the one holding back the basketball team too? #HookEm— /r/LonghornNation (@/r/LonghornNation)1609613357.0
The Longhorns have a tough test Saturday when they take their undefeated conference record to Morgantown to face off against No. 14 West Virginia Mountaineers. The game tips off at noon on ESPN.
Austin police lifted the shelter in place order after searching the area around 9600 block of Great Hills Trail near the Arboretum for a 41-year-old man named Stephen Broderick, who they believe is responsible for shooting and ultimately killing three people in Northwest Austin
As of 5 p.m., the suspect is still at large and considered to be armed and dangerous, though police do not believe he is actively targeting anyone else. During a press briefing at 4:45 on Sunday, APD Interim police Chief Joseph Chacon said they are switching the search from the immediate area to a fugitive search as they have exhausted all the leads they currently have.
Chacon confirmed during the briefing that Broderick was a former Travis County Sheriff's Office deputy. Chacon said they will remain on the scene for "several hours" and there were 75 FBI agents on the scene as of the briefing.
APD @Chief_Chacon provides updated media briefing in relation to Great Hills Trail incident. - PIO8 https://t.co/47siNWhARI
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
Police believe the victims, who have been identified as two Hispanic women and one Black man, knew their assailant. Chacon said a child was involved but is now safely in police custody. Broderick was described as 5 foot, 7 inches with a medium build and was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, sunglasses and a baseball cap.
"We're very sorry that obviously that this has happened and we continue to try and locate this individual, we are transitioning from a search in this area to a fugitive search and those efforts will continue until this person is located," Chacon said. "I don't want anyone to think that we're packing up and going home. We're going to continue to look for this individual because he continues to pose a threat to this community."
At a 2:30 p.m. press briefing, Chacon said APD responded to a "shoot, stab, hot shot" call on Great Hills Trail and Rain Creek Parkway at 11:46 a.m. to find the three victims with gunshot wounds. APD was joined by the Austin Fire Department. ATCEMS, the local chapter of the FBI, the U.S. Marshals, Department of Public Safety, and the Round Rock Police Department for support.
Though Austin Travis-County EMS originally reported it as an active shooter situation, police now believe the incident was an isolated domestic event.
"This is still an ongoing and active investigation and we do not have this individual in custody yet," Chacon said during the first press briefing. "We would ask if you have your neighbors, phone numbers, call or text them check on them and make sure that they're okay. We are concerned that he might possibly take a hostage and be himself sheltered somewhere waiting for us to leave."
At this time the Great Hills Trail scene is still active. We are still asking residents to shelter in place and report suspicious activity. While a suspect is still at large it appears this is a domestic situation that is isolated and there is no risk to the general public. -PIO8
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
Three helicopters and SWAT teams were sent to the area, as well as 18 ATCEMS response assets. According to Austin Police, the incident occurred at an apartment complex near Great Hills Trail and Rain Creek Parkway.
#texasshooting #masshooting Arboretum shooting Austin. pic.twitter.com/SkIsgDoYHt
— Jamie Hammonds (@jamie_hammonds5) April 18, 2021
APD announced at 1:02 p.m. that Loop 360 will be shut down in both directions from Spicewood Springs to 183 due to the incident. The roads will remain closed until law enforcement is able to wrap up the crime scene and units demobilize.
TRAFFIC UPDATE: Loop 360 will be shut down in both directions from Spicewoods Springs to 183 due to ongoing incident. - PIO8
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
This is a developing story.
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Formula 1 is returning to Florida for the first time since 1959, announcing that the brand-new Miami Grand Prix will join the calendar in 2022 and Austin will no longer be the only F1 race in the U.S.
Held at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens, this will be the first race in the Sunshine State in 62 years. With a new track setup, F1 will loop the stadium, home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Excited for @F1 @f1miami @HardRockStadium - a Global Entertainment Destination. This event will bring opportunities for so many and will be world-class. Thank you to @gregmaffei #chasecarey #stefanodomenicali @MayorRHarris @Ogilbert @CommishDiaz @MayorDaniella pic.twitter.com/n6dDDD1cPX
— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2021
The new 3.36 mile circuit has 19 corners, three straights and potential for three DRS zones, with expected top speeds of 198 mph.
Now with two races in the U.S., F1 President Stefano Domenicali said they will avoid having back-to-back events by keeping the Miami Grand Prix separate from the U.S. Grand Prix, which is held at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
The date of the race has yet to be confirmed, though Domenicali said he expects the first race in a 10-year deal to take place in the second quarter of 2022. Austin's race will take place on Oct. 24 this year.
"The USA is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the U.S. which will be further supported by this exciting second race," Domenicali said.
Miami will mark the 11th race location in the U.S. since the Championship began in 1950: Circuit of The Americas in Austin; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Sebring, Florida; Riverside, California; Watkins Glen, New York; Long Beach, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Detroit, Michigan and Phoenix, Arizona. COTA was first opened in 2012.
Domenicali said F1 will be working with the FIA and the Hard Rock Stadium to leave a lasting impact on the community: discounted tickets for residents, a program to support local businesses and a STEM education program through F1 in schools.
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