It's becoming increasingly clear that Texas coach Rick Barnes is going to have to survive a second straight miserable year if he's going to keep his job for years to come.
On the heels of a disappointing season in which Texas lost 11 Big 12 games and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in Barnes' 15-year tenure, the Longhorns have now lost five underclassmen since March.
Rising sophomore forward Ioannis Papapetrou, Texas' leading returning scorer, became the latest to leave Tuesday, signing a lucrative professional deal to play in his native Greece with Olympiacos BC. Papapetrou averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds for Texas as a freshman and led Greece's U-20 team in scoring at 15.9 points per game this summer at the European Championships.
"There's no question that Papi wanted to be here at The University of Texas, and it was going to take something very significant for him not to be here," Barnes said Monday night in a statement. "And that's exactly what happened. The professional team in Greece approached Papi and his family again this week before he was set to leave to come back to campus, and the team basically created a contract that catered exactly to his needs and the wishes of his family. In the end, the contract was too much for him and his family to say 'no' to in their situation."
The departure of Papapetrou means a Texas team that already shot 29.7 percent from behind the arc a year ago and 41.3 percent overall now will have to replace its four leading scorers. Sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo entered the NBA draft despite missing the first 23 games of last season due to NCAA eligibility issues and promising wings Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis announced during the spring they intend to transfer.
Papapetrou's departure is a bit different in that he needed an offer he couldn't refuse before he'd leave the Longhorns, but it's no less damaging to Texas. He was a mismatch at both forwards spots and he had the capability to produce a breakout season next year and help shoulder the scoring burden.
Without Kabongo, McLellan, Lewis and Papapetrou, the 2013-14 Texas roster is severely undermanned.
Point guard Javan Felix showed flashes of promise filling in for Kabongo as a freshman, but Demarcus Holland is the lone returning shooting guard, a bit of a misnomer for a defensive-minded player who sank only 8 of 46 threes last season. Young big men Jonathan Holmes, Connor Lammert and Cameron Ridley are also expected back, but each of them need to make major strides next year.
Also disconcerting for Texas is the elite recruiting classes Barnes once annually delivered haven't been as common the past couple years. None of Barnes' four signees for next season ranked in the top 100 of the Rivals 150 and the Longhorns were non-factors in the recruitment of highly touted Kentucky-bound Texas products Julius Randle and Aaron and Andrew Harrison.
A losing season next year would continue the downward trend Texas has been unable to pull out of the past five years.
Since a co-Big 12 title and an Elite Eight run in 2008, Texas hasn't advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament and it has finished higher than a tie for fourth in the Big 12 only once. The Longhorns were fortunate to slip into the NCAA tournament in 2012 and they were all but out of contention by the start of conference play this past year.
With Kansas reloading with one of the nation's top freshman classes and Oklahoma State and Baylor returning the core of NCAA tournament teams, Texas once again doesn't seem to be in position to contend in the Big 12, which could be bad news for Barnes.
The only way the notoriously apathetic Texas basketball fanbase stops talking football long enough to pay attention to hoops is if the Longhorns are either contending for a Final Four or uncharacteristically bad.
Unfortunately for Barnes, right now it's definitely the latter.