What’s wrong with Texas basketball?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Texas basketball lost its entire starting lineup over the offseason, but added the nation’s fifth-ranked recruiting class. It set up a natural question for Shaka Smart at the onset of his second season in Austin: Were the Longhorns facing a reload or a rebuild?

Through six games, it seems we have an answer.

What began as a 3-0 start is now blemished by just as many losses. Though Texas also started 3-3 last season, the cause for concern this season is much higher with a young team. There’s plenty of blame to go around for three consecutive double-digit losses. Just take your pick.

Who’s the point guard?

Remember when Smart enjoyed the luxury of one of college basketball’s most efficient floor generals orchestrating his offense? That was just last season, but Isaiah Taylor bypassed his senior season and Smart is now forced to play point guard by committee.

The experiment is yet to yield the results necessary for Texas to play at a competitive level. While numerous ‘Horns have seen reps running the show, sophomore Kerwin Roach Jr. and freshman Andrew Jones are handling the bulk of ball-distributing duties. The outcome has been a mere 25 assists through 11 combined games (Roach missed one game due to suspension), which is overshadowed by 20 turnovers. Taylor alone dished out 30 assists to only 13 turnovers through six games last season, in addition to his 16 points per game.

The absence of a confident and capable point guard has echoed throughout Texas’ offensive productivity. During their three-game skid, the ‘Horns are averaging a horrid 57.6 points per game, and the eye test loudly speaks towards the struggles. Largely due to a lack of experience and likely confidence, the offense often devolves into a repetitive cycle of overpassing without a go-to scorer or true floor general to rely upon.

Shooting struggles

If a perimeter-oriented team like Texas lives by the three and dies by the three, then the ‘Horns have done the latter this season. Shooting threes at a 26 percent clip isn’t an ingredient in Smart’s recipe for success. During its three-game losing streak, Texas’ efficiency drops to 21 percent from deep (13 for 61).

Tevin Mack has emerged as a quality perimeter option, converting 42 percent of his 31 attempts from deep, but the remaining key contributors have suffered through a substantial shooting slump. Roach, Jones, Eric Davis Jr., and Jacob Young are perceived as capable, if not steadfast shooters, but the quartet have collectively connected on just 16 of 86 three-point attempts. As a result, Texas ranks No. 341 out of 351 schools in three-point shooting percentage.

Texas’ perimeter shortcomings aren’t its only glaring offensive deficiency, though. The ‘Horns are shooting just 43 percent from the field, which is tied for 242nd nationally, while converting only 63 percent of their free throw attempts.

For Texas to find success in 2016-17, it has to be a solid shooting team. That hasn’t been the case thus far.

Not enough bigs, not enough boards

Aside from freshman big man Jarrett Allen, who’s snagging 7.8 rebounds per game, the Longhorns’ effort on the boards has been subpar. Frontcourt depth and talent was a legitimate concern entering the season and, excluding the three buy games to open the season, Texas’ three-man interior rotation has validated such concerns.

Texas is currently tied for 196th in total rebounds with 225 and tied for 150th in rebounds per game with 37. Consider the ‘Horns’ last three games against Northwestern, Colorado, and UT-Arlington: Texas was outrebounded 122 to 98 and allowed 36 offensive boards, many of which led to second-chance points.

Mareik Isom, a 6’9 graduate transfer, will soon return from injury, but he’s far from an impact player on the glass after never averaging more than 2.9 rebounds per game. Neither is senior center Shaquille Cleare.

In short, Texas’ hopes of successful rebounding rest on the shoulders of a rail-thin freshmen Allen and James Banks. That’s a lot to ask of two players just beginning to get accustomed to what big-time college basketball is like.

The proof is in the productivity, and it’s costing Texas to this point.