The sky isn't exactly falling, but there is some cause for concern. The Texas men's basketball team now stands 13-5 overall and 3-1 in conference play. The Horns are really just a game shy of where I predicted they would be pre-season. However, it feels like they are sliding considerably after dropping both their games last week, and they still must play a third straight road game this Wednesday.
Texas also missed a major opportunity to notch another solid non-conference win. At this point in the season, the Horns' NCAA resume is not that strong. In non-conference road games, the Horns were 0-2 (at Tennessee & at Villanova). They weren't much better against non-conference teams on neutral courts. Texas went 2-2 with wins over LSU and St. John's and losses to Gonzaga and Michigan State.
LSU has not looked as solid since we beat them in early December in Houston. The Tigers are just 2-2 in SEC play. They will make the NCAA tournament but our victory over them won't seem as big by the end of the season. Our win over St. John's isn't impressive either. There is no way the Red Storm make the NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga has now lost six of their last ten and will need to win their post season conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament. Our loss to the Zags in Phoenix looks worse with every West Coast Conference game they drop.
Basically the Horns are lacking a quality road win. They will get three more chances during conference play: at Texas Tech, at A&M, and at Kansas. At this point in the season, our strongest win is at home over Arkansas and if the season ended today Texas would be seeded somewhere in the dreaded 7-10 range in the NCAA tournament.
It is time for this team to step up and it starts on defense. In Texas' five losses, opponents are shooting 44% from the floor. If the Horns don't improve on defense, they will likely slip to a 10-6 or 9-7 record in the Big 12 and be staring a tough bracket come March.
Thankfully, the schedule sets up nicely for this team to get back on track. After their road game in Lincoln on Wednesday, their next five games are Baylor, at Texas Tech, Kansas State, at Texas A&M, and Iowa State. A 4-2 record would be acceptable, but a 5-1 record would really get this team rolling again.