The Big 12 Tournament didn’t go quite as well as the Texas Longhorns had hoped. After a convincing win against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the opening game, the Horns surrendered a double-digit lead with under five minutes remaining to fall to the eventual champion Iowa State Cyclones at the buzzer.
One could argue that this game, in which the Horns started on fire against a great team only to fall apart in the end, is a microcosm of their entire season.
While the Longhorns blew yet another chance to solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament, they didn’t kill their chances either.
So, with Selection Sunday less than 24 hours away, and March Madness heating up fast, are the Longhorns in or are they out?
While we won’t officially know until tomorrow evening, the Longhorns’ chances look pretty good, but you never know what can happen.
Working In Favor of the Longhorns
According to CBS Sports, Texas ranks 34th in RPI and 14th in strength of schedule; no other teams considered to be “on the bubble” have better numbers than that, and Texas not having a “bad loss” certainly helps.
Additionally, despite their inability to close out close games, the Horns have proven that they have the talent to hang with just about anyone.
ESPN college basketball guru Joe Lunardi, who prior to the Big 12 Tourney had the Horns listed as one of the “last four in,” no longer considers them such; instead, he lists them as one of the “last four byes” which means they likely won’t have to participate in a play-in game. He currently predicts the Horns will be an 11 seed.
Working Against the Longhorns
Obviously, there are only so many at-large bids to go around.
Unfortunately for those teams on the bubble, like Texas, Wyoming knocked off San Diego State today in the Mountain West Tournament, giving them an automatic bid and thereby stealing a spot away from a bubble team.
Additionally, while Texas beat UConn early in the season, the Huskies will play SMU on Sunday for the AAC championship. If they were to defeat the Mustangs, that would take away yet another at-large spot from another bubble team.
What hurts the Longhorns the most, however, is their inability to step up and grab a bid despite many, many chances. They have developed the reputation of a team that, regardless of talent, consistently underachieves.
If they fail to reach the Big Dance, they have only themselves to blame.
The Bottom Line
It’s definitely a frustrating time for Texas fans, and the fact that they’re even in this position considering the pre-season expectations, is hard to believe.
Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com said it best, when he wrote:
"Can you imagine being a Texas fan? The existential frustration of it? To see that your team is talented, and capable of beating the Big 12’s best when it plays well, and yet knowing it will eventually find a way to fall short? Brutal."
Nevertheless, considering that the Longhorns play in arguably the toughest conference in college basketball as well as the fact that they’ve shown they can play with just about anyone (most of their losses to several top teams were very close), Texas will likely receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament, probably landing somewhere around a 10-12 seed.