The Horns are in an interesting position as the #2 seed in the Atlanta region. By being slotted opposite Duke, the tournament's overall #1 seed, Texas is, in the committee's mind, the last #2 seed. I can't say that I agree with that, but it could have been worse: Texas could have found itself opposite Connecticut, a team I'm thrilled to see Texas won't be playing, unless it's in the national finals. Then again, the Horns could have been placed with Memphis or Villanova, two teams they've already defeated. And that, perhaps, is why the Horns did wind up opposite Duke. The committee's message, it seems, might be "Texas, if you are truly a Final Four team, you should get through Duke, who humiliated you in December."
We can quibble about whether other #2 seeds got it easier or harder, but the reality is that if Texas plays as its capable of, they'll find themselves in the Regional Final. Without further adieu, let's assess the Horns chances of getting to Indianapolis:
Potential Opponents: (15) Pennsylvania
Texas will tip their 2006 tournament season on Friday night at 8:40 CST against the Pennsylvania Quakers, Ivy League champions. My brother, a graduate of Penn, will be offering a guest preview of the Quakers for us later today. In the meantime, I think it's safe to say that the Horns are moving on. Penn has no chance.
Chance of advancing: 99%
Round of 32
Potential Opponents: (7) California, (10) NC State
According to seeds, Texas likely faces California in the second round. Neither team presents a particularly daunting opponent for the Horns, though stranger upsets have certainly happened. One of the keys will be for Horns fans to show up in droves to cheer them on in Dallas. If you're in the area, I hope you'll be there. A home court advantage should help the Horns breeze in to the Sweet 16.
Chance of winning game: 80%
Chance of making Sweet 16: 79%
Potential Opponents: (6) West Virginia, (11) Southern Illinois, (3) Iowa, (14) Northwestern State
Assuming Texas gets either West Virginia or Iowa, Texas will be getting a rematch with a team they've defeated this year. Both victories were on neutral courts, but both victories were also by the slimmest of margins. Texas probably should have lost to West Virginia the first time around. However, while West Virginia and Iowa have had solid seasons, Texas has improved dramatically since those early matchups. Texas should be 5-7 point favorites against either team, and their path to the Regional Final really isn't that messy.
Chance of winning game: 65%
Chance of advancing to Elite 8: 52%
Potential Opponents: (1) Duke, (16) Southern, (8) George Washington, (9) UNC-Willimington, (5) Syracuse, (12) Texas A&M, (4) LSU, (13) Iona
The odds are pretty good that Texas will see Duke in the Regional Final, though LSU or Syracuse could potentially give the Blue Devils trouble. Assuming Texas gets its rematch with Duke, I think you can throw the first meeting out the window. The keys to the game will be how well Texas can keep its best players fresh and on the floor (e.g. no foul trouble), and Texas' size and athleticism could give Duke trouble. You can bet on the Devils being favorites, but Texas is capable of knocking them off on a good night. If anyone other than Duke makes the Regional Final, Texas' chances of winning shoot up.
Chance of winning game: 45%
If we do the calculations, that gives Texas (using my numbers) a 23% chance of making the Final Four. Considering the difficulty of the NCAA tournament, that's not a bad draw for Texas. I can certainly envision other scenarios where Texas' chance of advancing to the Final Four dipped down in to the 10-15% range. While being paired with Duke has its obvious disadvantages, I thought in December, as I think now, that we match up pretty well with them.
Much, much more on Texas and the rest of the NCAA tournament all week here at BON. Stay tuned and join in with your own thoughts.