Rick Barnes' squad must win four games in four days to avoid missing the tournament for the first time since in his Texas tenure.
The Big 12 tournament, the official do-or-die moment for the 2012-13 Texas Longhorns, has arrived.
With its overtime win against Texas Tech on Saturday, the Longhorns locked up the No. 7 seed in this year’s conference tourney, meaning they’ll play 10-seed TCU in the late game tonight at 8:30 on the Big 12 Network in the opening round.
Texas (15-16, 7-11 Big 12) comes into the game riding its first win streak - if you can call two wins in a row a "streak" - since it won back to back games against Texas State and North Carolina in late December. They should be able to gain even more confidence tonight against a Horned Frog team that won just two conference games all year, and was one of only two teams the Longhorns swept this season.
Though Texas would have to play 2-seed Kansas State Thursday evening if it takes care of TCU (11-20, 2-16) tonight, there’s a glimmer of hope for the boys in burnt orange after a conference season that saw a lot of surprising upsets.
“Our league’s proved to be wide open,” Rick Barnes said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “There’s been people beating people all year, so it could be an exciting time.”
Some other teams will head to Kansas City knowing they’ll need wins to hear their name on Selection Sunday. For Texas the mission is clear: cut down the nets on Saturday evening or miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in the Barnes era.
“We know what’s there. We’ve got to win. It’s plain and simple,” Barnes said. “Not just one game, but for us to do what we set out at the beginning of the year to do we have to win the tournament.”
Texas’ path through Kansas City won’t be easy, but with some luck it could be doable.
First the Horns will have to show up to play TCU tonight and not get caught looking ahead to a Kansas State team that demolished them in Manhattan and easily won in Austin.
If they get by TCU tonight, they'll need some luck on Thursday. First off the Horns will have to find a way to beat K-State. They'll also be rooting hard for Baylor, who plays Oklahoma State in the other quarterfinal on their side of the bracket.
The Cowboys may have given Texas more fits than anybody else in the Big 12 this year; Baylor is a team Texas beat once and took to overtime the other. A Bear upset - a team desperate for wins to assure itself a spot in the NCAA tournament - opens the door for a more favorable Friday semifinal matchup for the Longhorns and a potential berth in Saturday’s final.
A lot has to go right for Texas to make an improbable four-day run through Kansas City. Even after Kansas State and the winner of Baylor and OSU, the Horns are very likely going to have to take down the conference's top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the final.
Is it likely? No. But is the potential there for a miraculous run if the ball bounces Texas’ way over the next four days? As hard as it would be to believe, yes, the chance is there.
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