Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott radiated a sense of eagerness at his press conference Monday.
“This has been a really fun group for us in the first two weeks,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of talent in our gym. It’s a group that has a lot of potential.”
A young lineup consisting of mostly freshmen, sophomores and a few seniors could give an already successful team an extra boost.
While the new squad brings a sense of excitement, it also comes with a great deal of pressure. Elliott emphasized the need to capture momentum early in the season.
“You have to schedule tough to be one of the top four seeds to host (the NCAA tournament) all the way through,” Elliott said. “So this is why we’re coming out of the gate fast in these first five games.”
Calling Texas’ early out-of-conference schedule tough is an understatement. Texas has to travel to two final four teams from last year— BYU and defending national champion Stanford.
The home stretch isn’t much easier as the Longhorns square off against the third-ranked Minnesota Gophers and the 14th-ranked USC Trojans.
Despite the rigor of the early schedule, the Longhorns seem to be calm.
“Yeah it’s dangerous, but it’s what you do at Texas,” Elliott said.
Elliott also cited examples from previous seasons where the Longhorns had a strenuous schedule early on but managed to find success.
“If you look back at our track record, the scheduling has always been tough,” Elliott said. “I think early in 2012, we weren’t a very good team. We were beat pretty bad, but we ended up learning and winning the national championship that year.”
The Longhorns’ ability to adapt and change throughout the season has become an identifying characteristic of Elliott’s teams and one of the main reasons the program has been able to maintain a standard
Another identifying element of sustained excellence is the versatility of players to rotate to different positions.
And the Longhorns feel they have that special characteristic.
“We have a ton of balance,” Elliott said. “I feel like we can score at any position. Last year we hit (.310) on the season. I think that this team has the capability to hit higher than that, at least five to 10 points higher.”
The Longhorns start their regular season Friday when they face Northern Iowa at 7 p.m. in Gregory Gym.