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"Nobody likes it"

Raise your hand if you're looking forward to Texas' first ever trip to the College Basketball Invitational.

Myck Kabongo's future at Texas remains in question heading into the CBI on Wednesday.

Raise your hand if you knew the CBI existed prior to Sunday.

Raise your hand if you're still interested in Texas basketball.

For those who are still with me, let's quantify what the Longhorns are getting ready for beginning on Wednesday night. If the NCAA Tournament is comparable to ball on the grandest stage, and the NIT then becomes the high school prom, the Longhorns are two-stepping their way to the college hoops equivalent of an early evening gala at a local senior center.

Still, none of that matters to Rick Barnes. While his 16-17 Longhorns are missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his 15 seasons on the bench and are relegated to facing Houston at Hofheinz Pavilion ten years after the program's watershed moment of the first and only Final Four in the Barnes era, he's not overly concerned with how his program got to this point.

With a roster that relies on contributions from 11 combined freshmen and sophomores, all Barnes wants his team to do is play. Now that the reality of a third-tier postseason tournament is looking the Texas program right in the face, all Barnes wants is for his team to make the most of this chance.

“Nobody likes it,” Barnes said on Monday during his portion of the Big 12 coaches teleconference. “Nobody is as disappointed as we are. We're disappointed, but the fact is these guys know what faces them. I think we've got enough guys, and the ones we can really count on this will benefit them greatly.”

Barnes acknowledging the “ones we can really count on” won't do much to squash the attrition murmurs that have already started.

Sheldon McClellan finished second on the team in scoring (13.8 points per game) despite starting less than half of the Longhorns' games. Injuries helped limit Jaylen Bond to 20 games in a crowded front court where McDonald's All-American Cameron Ridley (16.8 minutes per game) and Prince Ibeh (10 minutes per game) struggled to see the floor consistently.

And who knows what to make of Myck Kabongo's future. A potential NBA decision looms despite Kabongo only seeing action in ten games with a few underwhelming performances among those contests.

“It's like I always say, every kid should do what's best for them,” Barnes said. “Everybody looks where they are and what they have to do to be the team we want to be. They evaluate where they are we have to do the same. Myck will do that and decide what's best for him.”

What's best for Kabongo and the rest of the Longhorns as far as Barnes is concerned is to spend whatever time remains in a forgettable season competing and improving.

“Every day you're trying to get better,” Barnes said. “You have time to practice and time to get better. You can work on what you need to so we get the team we want to have eventually.

“If you're competitive at all every chance to have to compete you have to want to play.”

While fans don't seem motivated and few remotely care about the Longhorns postseason trip, Barnes is using anything he can to make sure his players are locked in and ready. That includes using things like Kabongo's 23-game suspension as motivation.

“The games Myck missed, play as long as you can for him,” Barnes said. “He worked his rear end off and he only played ten games. If nothing else, let's play as long as we can for him.”

The Longhorns have a maximum of six games remaining in the worst season a Texas hoops squad has experienced since Tom Penders' final season in 1998. Kabongo's decision, what becomes of guys like McClellan and Bond and possible additions of five-star power forward Julius Randle and four-star combo guard Demarcus Croaker will all have an impact on whether or not the Longhorns can turn things around and get the ship headed back in the right direction next season.

While there's still plenty to be determined, the work towards seeing next year's postseason go on a path towards Cowboys Stadium in Arlington rather than another best of three series begins now.

“Regardless of success or failure when the season is over you look at it, evaluate it then you put in the work,” Barnes said. “It begins immediately. You want to keep playing. With this group we're confident they'll do what they need to do. The guys who want to win, they'll look at themselves they'll make changes. We've got guys who are willing to do that.”

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