AUSTIN, Texas — Shaka Smart’s tough second season at Texas is taking yet another rough turn.
With his team already struggling at 7-9 after starting the season the Top 25, Smart indefinitely suspended leading scorer Tevin Mack on Thursday for an unspecified team rules violation.
“We have a set of standards that we expect people in our program to adhere to,” Smart said. “Tevin has failed to reach them.”
Smart did not elaborate, but it is the second suspension this season for Mack, who sat out the first game for an unspecified rules violation during the offseason. The sophomore is averaging 14.8 points per game and has been Texas’ most versatile and consistent player on the court.
The latest sit-down comes with Texas heading into perhaps the roughest stretch facing any team this season: Saturday at home against No. 10 West Virginia before road games next week at No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Kansas.
“It’s a test,” Smart said after Texas lost to TCU Wednesday night . “A test, a challenge for everyone in our program, me included. The question is, what are you going to do next? How are you going to respond?”
Texas began the season ranked No. 21 after Smart took his first team to the NCAA Tournament, where the Longhorns lost in the first round.
The preseason optimism was likely the result of Smart’s reputation as a rising young coach who made a splash at Virginia Commonwealth before Texas pried him away with a seven-year contract that pays him more than $3 million per year.
But Smart had to replace his entire starting lineup this season and the Longhorns have struggled to play with any cohesion or rhythm despite what most considered a soft home schedule in November and December.
The Longhorns have lost four of their last five and have embarrassing home losses this season to UT-Arlington and Kent State this season.
While freshman forward Jarrett Allen show signs of developing into a star as expected, Texas has been rudderless without a quality point guard in the Big 12.
No play was more indicative of the struggles than the end of the loss to TCU. Texas was down by three and rebounded a missed TCU free throw with 5 seconds left. The Longhorns didn’t get off a shot as Kerwin Roach dribbled the ball at midcourt as time expired.
After the play, Mack could be seen yelling at Roach, who tried to downplay the incident.
“He was just giving me advice on what I should have done,” Roach said.
“They were disappointed with the last play. There was frustration throughout the game at different times,” Smart said.” I tell these guys all the time that basketball is not a perfect game … You can win without being perfect, but we have to be more about lifting each other up.”
Smart would seem unlikely to be on any kind of a hot seat. Most of Texas’ attention has focused on three years of struggles in football, the firing of coach Charlie Strong and the hiring of Tom Herman to turn that program around.