The Longhorns were a middle-of-the-road team in the Big 12, and their record reflected it. So did their wins and losses. Texas was swept by top-tier teams Kansas, Missouri and Baylor, split with Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State and swept bottom-feeders Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Their top non-conference win was Temple. All of those would seem to indicate that the Longhorns were pure average among conference teams.
But in 2012-2013, the goal is to take residence at, or at least nearer, the top of the conference standings. And the Longhorns' non-conference schedule reflects that opinion, giving Texas a number of tough games meshed into opportunities to build confidence ahead of the Big 12 conference slate.
The Longhorns open with a pair of confidence builders in Fresno State and Coppin State before heading into a Maui Invitational field that includes Butler, Illinois, Marquette, Mississippi State, North Carolina and USC. Texas has the talent to beat any of those teams, but any one of those games could result in a loss. That's a long way to say it's an outstanding field for the Longhorns to participate in. Texas will get 1) battle-tested and 2) if things go well, could provide a huge confidence boost.
Afterward, Sam Houston State and Texas-Arlington will provide a bit of a breather before heading to Madison Square Garden to take on a talented Georgetown team that employs Otto Porter as a big man, somebody who could be a great test for the Longhorns' young bigs.
Just four days later is a showdown with rapidly improving UCLA, a team that will stress the Longhorns' perimeter defense with Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Another reason I like this game: Texas could have played it in Austin, but chose a neutral site. In fact, out of the Longhorns' biggest games: the Maui Invitational, Georgetown, UCLA, North Carolina (yes, Texas could play the Heels twice if they meet in Maui) and Michigan State; North Carolina is the only home contest.
True, there's only one true road game — at Michigan State — but the NCAA Tournament is played on neutral sites, and getting so many tough games away from home can be tremendous experience.
After UCLA, Texas gets a brief respite against Texas State before hosting the Tar Heels, a squad that lost a bushel of talent after this season, but that loss could be helped somewhat by the pushing of James Michael McAdoo into the starting lineup, where he could be an All-ACC player. And a recruiting class that includes four four-star players, including a true point in Marcus Paige and a talented scoring wing in J.P. Tokoto, means that while North Carolina might not be a top-five team, they'll have the young talent of a future one.
Three days later, Texas takes on what is always a physical challenge in a trip to Michigan State, before closing out with a likely win against Rice just before conference season starts.
So while the schedule appears tough (and is tough), it's also the kind of schedule that could provide a young, but extremely talented, team with a great base for what should be a tough conference season, and later the NCAA Tournament.