Following a loss in the Big 12 tournament to Kansas at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Thursday night, the Longhorns’ chances of making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament are relatively slim.
The team’s struggles towards the end of the season catapulted the Longhorns into what amounts to a precarious position. A win against the Kansas Jayhawks and they’re likely in….. A loss, and they likely miss the big dance for the second time in four years under Shaka Smart.
Looking Back at the Kansas Game
The game turned out to be another display of the struggles Shaka Smart’s team has faced all season. The Longhorns had issues playing consistent defense against the Jayhawks. They left inside lanes open for guards to drive into, and passing lanes in which Kansas had open looks from. With all of the holes in the defense, it did not help that the Texas offense was giving up points in transition. Kansas had double digit points off of the 8 turnovers committed by Texas.
To make matters worse for the Longhorns, the team relied on one-on-one offensive possessions and the pick and roll. The team has relied too heavily on those offensive schemes as of late, and it was predictable throughout the game for Kansas. Texas’ lack of ball movement also eliminated good shot selection for most of the second half. Despite the 29-29 tie at halftime, the Longhorns were not able to hang around, allowing Kansas to jump out to a 9 point lead on a 13-3 run within 5 minutes of the second half starting at 44-35. This comfortable lead was easily maintained by Kansas as they only let Texas get within 4 points at 61-57, only to put the game away at 65-57.
Takeaways and What is Next For Texas
This game was a a microcosm of the Texas basketball season. They started strong and competitive, beginning the season 5-0. But after suffering a comeback defeat to Michigan State, Texas was a different team moving forward. The rest of the season was full of inconsistencies, from big wins over North Carolina, Purdue, and Kansas, to a blown 19-point lead in the second half against Baylor. The team lost their sense of direction, and their record suffered as a result.
The Longhorns are now facing a meager 8% chance of receiving an invitation to the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Despite the team’s notable wins against highly-ranked opponents including North Carolina, Texas likely has not done enough to ensure themselves an at-large bid. According to ESPN, the Longhorns have the 57th-ranked strength of record in the country. With conference tournament winners receiving automatic bids into the NCAA tournament, a team like Texas does not have enough in their favor for the selection committee to warrant including them. Additionally, no team with a record of .500 (16-16) has ever made it into the NCAA Tournament on an at-large bid. The closest team to succeed in a similar scenario was an Alabama team with 14 losses. But the .500 record is an eyesore for the selection committee, which will likely be the main reason behind excluding Texas from the field
Selection Sunday will be televised tomorrow, Sunday, March 17th at 5:00 PM CST on CBS.
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