Longhorns kick off season of hope against visiting Bison

Nov 14, 2014 - 4:34 PM Austin, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The 10th-ranked team in the nation lifts the lid on the 2014-15 basketball season, as the Texas Longhorns lock up with the Bison of North Dakota State in the 2K Sports Classic at the Erwin Center.

The Longhorns, hailing from the Big 12 Conference, are coming off a 24-11 campaign during which they won all but two of the 18 games played on their home floor. The squad was 11-7 in league action, but after defeating West Virginia (66-49) in the conference tournament, bowed to Baylor (86-69) in the semifinals of the event.

Nevertheless, Texas was invited to take part in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in 16 seasons under head coach Rick Barnes, but after taking out Arizona State by a mere two points in the second round, the Longhorns were dismissed by Michigan (79-65).

As for the Bison, members of the Summit League since 2007-08, they are coming off a very successful campaign in which they not only made it to the NCAA Tournament, but defeated Oklahoma (80-75) in overtime in the first contest before being dismissed by San Diego State (63-44). Still, NDSU produced an impressive 26-7 record overall and was 12-2 in league action, not to mention 12-1 at home.

As a Division I member, this will be the 10th game for the Bison against a Top-25 opponent, the team having won three of the previous nine matchups versus elite programs.

Both teams, which are meeting for the first time ever, will be back in action a few days now in more regional action of the tournament as Texas hosts Alcorn State on Sunday, and North Dakota State drops in on Iowa a day later.

Unfortunately for the Bison, they've lost some serious scoring punch from last season when they posted 75.5 ppg and outscored opponents by close to 10.0 ppg. The squad was comprised of four double-digit scorers and the last one standing is Lawrence Alexander, after putting up 11.1 ppg, to go along with his 4.3 rpg. The projected starting five is a bit light on scoring, particularly with A.J. Jacobson, a redshirt freshman, being inserted along the front line with Chris Kading (2.7 ppg).

Kory Brown (7.0 ppg) will hopefully be able to hold his own, but against an athletic Texas squad there is little chance he'll be able to improve upon his 4.2 rpg from a season ago. Operating with a small lineup for the most part, Carlin Dupree will also see plenty of time in the backcourt for the Bison, even though he was responsible for a mere 3.0 ppg a season ago.

Picked to finish second in the Big 12, the Longhorns have the luxury of bringing back all five starters from last season and a total of 12 lettermen overall. Isaiah Taylor made a huge impression in his first season in Austin by being named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team as a freshman as he posted 12.7 ppg and was first in assists with 4.0 per contest.

In addition to being the top returning scorer for Texas with his 12.8 ppg, Jonathan Holmes is a senior who will be leaned upon for guidance. In addition to being one of the top scoring threats, Holmes is also a huge presence on the glass after clearing 7.2 rpg. Adding strength along the front line for the 'Horns is Cameron Ridley, an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention last year who was also named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team while averaging 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest.

Javan Felix (11.6 ppg) and Demarcus Holland (7.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg) are both active contributors in the backcourt, even though they might not earn as much time in the spotlight as their teammates.

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