2022 Battle 4 Atlantis Women's Tournament

Battle 4 Atlantis: Title Hopeful Texas Brings Toughness To The Bahamas

Battle 4 Atlantis: Title Hopeful Texas Brings Toughness To The Bahamas

The Battle 4 Atlantis field continues an early-season effort for VIc Schaefer's Texas Longhorns team to pull the squad out of its comfort zone.

Nov 19, 2022 by Kyle Kensing
Battle 4 Atlantis: Title Hopeful Texas Brings Toughness To The Bahamas

Vic Schaefer knows that in order to be the best, a team must play the best. 

The Texas head basketball coach came to Austin in 2020 after a wildly successful tenure at Mississippi State, in which he elevated a program with just one NCAA Tournament trip advancing past the first weekend in its history and no conference championships. 

By the time he left, the Bulldogs won the Southeastern Conference title twice and reached the NCAA National Championship Game twice. And they accomplished those milestones consistently playing one of the toughest schedules in the game. 

Texas has adopted a similar approach, evident immediately in Schaefer's third year at the helm. A Longhorns team with Final Four ambition — and the roster capable of making it happen — takes on one of the most challenging slates anywhere. 

The gauntlet takes the Longhorns to the Bahamas ahead of Thanksgiving, where they join seven teams all with realistic designs on the NCAA Tournament. Realistically, a minimum of four teams including Texas opened the 2022-23 season with the look of legitimate Final Four contenders. 

Texas opens the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 19 against one of the tournament's dark horses, Marquette. The Golden Eagles marks the Longhorns' second consecutive Big East Conference opponent, as the lofty schedule Texas accepted this season took Schaefer's squad to Connecticut on Nov. 14. 

The Horns dropped a competitive decision to the perennial title-contending Huskies, but it was exactly the sort of November contest that readies a team to play into April. 

"We take some really good things out of that," Schaefer said at his Nov. 16 media availability, but added: "We can't guard anybody right now. We're horribly defensively...You're not going to beat anybody in the top 10 letting them shoot like we let them shoot."  

Texas advanced to last season's Elite Eight on the strength of a lights-out defense. In three NCAA Tournament wins, the Longhorns allowed 52, 56 and 63 points, then gave up just 59 in a Regional Final rock-fight against Stanford. Per HerHoopStats.com advanced metrics, the 2021-22 Longhorns ranked 15th nationally in defensive rating. 

Schaefer returning a veteran lineup that includes outstanding on-the-ball defenders Taylor Jones and Shay Holle, complementing addition of DePaul transfer and offensive dynamo Sonya Morris, fueled the heavy expectations set for Texas as the nation's preseason No. 3-ranked team. 

Losing to UConn may have put a damper on the impressive preseason kudos, but sets Texas on-course for targeting its weaknesses earlier into the season. The 2021-22 Horns had to learn those lessons in January, dealing with a midseason swoon against the always cumbersome Big 12 Conference slate. 

"I want to see us develop some toughness. It's easy to talk the talk; it's another thing to walk the walk," Schaefer said. "They're uncomfortable. You and I both know, though, that's you reach your full potential. If you make decisions in life that are based on your comfortability, you're never going to get better. You're never going to challenge yourself to get to a whole new level of life.

"That's the challenge we have," he added.