by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

Last season was anything but one to remember for Texas. The much-hyped Longhorns won their first 17 games and ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the nation.

Then the wheels came off.

Rick Barnes’ squad lost 10 of its last 17 games and failed to advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It goes without saying that Texas was as anxious as any team to get this season started and to erase the memory of last year’s. Thursday night they took the first step towards doing that as the Longhorns, unranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time in 10 years, knocked off No. 13 Illinois 90-84 in overtime.

Led by the 25 points by sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton and a clutch shot at the end of regulation by freshman guard Cory Joseph, the Longhorns (who are now 3-0) are back on the national radar for something other than last season’s collapse.

From Yahoo! Sports:

“It feels nice,” forward Gary Johnson said, “to have something good happen for a change.”

Indeed, the eyes of Texas are once again affixed on the Longhorns, only this time it’s for all the right reasons. It’s been nearly a year – since a victory over Michigan State in Austin last December – that the program has experienced a win this big. Barnes may try to downplay it, but it’s true.

Of course last season’s problem was the finish, not the start, but Texas has plenty of early opportunities to make a serious statement as to whether it is ready to be a contender again. The Longhorns will play No. 5 Pittsburgh on Friday, No. 8 North Carolina on Dec. 18 and No. 2 Michigan State on Dec. 22.

But if Rick Barnes’ team learned anything from last season, it’s that a great start is nothing compared to a great finish.