Excitement surrounding a potential NCAA Tournament run for the Texas basketball program could help head coach Shaka Smart keep his job.
What looked like a season that was dead in the water for the Texas basketball program is actually turning around very fast. Texas just claimed their third straight victory, a feat that is rare in Big 12 play under the direction of head coach Shaka Smart, by upsetting the No. 20 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers at home at the Frank Erwin Center on Feb. 24.
Now Texas has to clear out the Oklahoma schools before they can officially turn their attention to the Big 12 Tournament and maybe getting a bid on Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. This would be the first time since former five-star recruit and star center Mohamed Bamba was on the Forty Acres that Texas would be in the NCAA Tournament field.
Texas now owns a record of 17-11 (7-8 Big 12) after knocking off West Virginia on Big Monday to start off the week. That is good enough to slot them in fourth place in the logjam that is the middle of the Big 12 standings. Other Big 12 teams like the Oklahoma Sooners and West Virginia are also causing that slog in the middle of the conference standings at the moment.
However, it wasn’t all that long ago that pretty much every fan of Texas men’s basketball was calling for Smart’s job by season’s end. Texas was sliding out of the NCAA Tournament picture very fast up until around 10 days ago. Missing the NCAA Tournament this year does seem like it would be the last straw for Smart on the Forty Acres.
But Texas does sit within striking distance of a single-digit seed in the Big Dance by now if they continue to ride this hot streak. Knock off the Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys to round out the regular season, and Texas will be in good position to finally get back into the tourney field.
Here’s a look into the three reasons why the Texas Longhorns basketball program should consider keeping Shaka Smart around beyond the 2019-20 regular season.