Every year before the NCAA announces the field of 68 for the Men’s Basketball tournament, a handful of teams are consumed with the uncertainty of whether they’ll be invited to the Big Dance. The past two seasons, the Texas Longhorns have been one of those teams. Not anymore.
The Texas Longhorns deserve to be in the field of 68.
Heading into Wednesday night’s Big 12 Tournament opener against last-place Iowa State, the Horns have an RPI of 49 even though ESPN ranks their schedule as the 17th-toughest in the nation. Generally speaking, these 2 statistics seem to fit the profile of a team that should make the tournament.
With so much parity in college basketball this year, especially in the Big 12, Wednesday night’s matchup is no cakewalk. Iowa State might seem like a blow-off opponent judging by their below average RPI of 121, 13-17 overall record and 4-14 last place conference finish, but don’t be fooled. They have some pretty impressive home wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma and West Virginia. They even took the Horns to overtime ultimately falling 74-70. Simply put, the Cyclones are a tough team and are not going home without a fight.
That being said, a loss to Iowa State could seriously hurt Texas’s tournament hopes, but a win SHOULD assure a room full of smiles in Austin on Selection Sunday.
How could they miss out, to begin with?
Check out the Horns’ resume. They have no sub-150 RPI losses. Add that to 6 top 100 wins which included a season sweep over Trae Young and fellow bubble team Oklahoma, homes win over Texas Tech and Baylor and a quality non-conference win against Butler. When it comes to the bubble, the Longhorns also hold two RPI 51-100 wins, including a neutral site win over SEC power Alabama and a home win over Big 12 Bubble opponent Oklahoma State.
Now, it might be concerning as the Longhorns are part of a group of 4 teams in the Big 12 with 18 overall wins and 8 conference wins, but they DO deserve to be in the tournament. Bracketologists Joe Lunardi of ESPN
and Jerry Palm of CBS both have Texas in play-in games right now, but I believe the Horns should be solidified in the field and should avoid playing in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.
Assuming the Longhorns don’t collapse on Wednesday night, they should be part of the most entertaining event in sports. A win in the 2nd round against 2-seed Texas Tech isn’t out of reach, and depending on how they fare in Kansas City, the Longhorns have the potential to really help their seeding this week. Banking on the returns of Mo Bamba and Eric Davis, this team has shown that they are capable of playing with anyone. They have taken both Duke and Gonzaga to overtime and have come up just short against top teams like Texas Tech, Michigan and Kansas.
If they get to playing their best basketball over the course of the tournament, the Alamodome could be painted in burnt orange in a few weeks.