We tip off this week's TBR with a reader email:
I seem to remember LAST year being mentioned as the fastest to 20 wins, and at this point in the season that team was 17-7 (or something like that). But I could be suffering from a faulty memory.
Lesley (Eddie The Albino Squirrel)
Great question, Lesley. I couldn't find the answer in Texas' media guide, but let's just focus on the Rick Barnes era. First, we should note that with Monday's win over Kansas, Rick Barnes has guided Texas to its ninth straight 20-win season. Only in his first year, 1998-99, did Texas fall short of that mark (19-13). I'm not sure if last year's squad was the fastest ever to 20 wins, but they got there on February 20th, a full nine days ahead of Rick Barnes' best team in Austin, the TJ Ford-led 2002-03 Longhorns (March 1st).
This year we reached the 20 win plateau on February 11th and if we've ever gotten there faster, then I don't know about it. What's most encouraging, though, is that Barnes' Texas teams have consistently played their best basketball over the season's final six weeks. That portends well for this year, as Texas enters its final seven games in terrific position to grab an outstanding seed for the tournament.
A few other interesting tidbits I grabbed from this year's Team Prospectus that highlight how good Rick Barnes has been since he arrived in Austin:
- Texas is one of five teams to reach the Sweet 16 in four of the last six years. Others: Duke (5), UCONN (4), Kansas (4), Pittsburgh (4)
- Since Barnes arrived at Texas, the Longhorns have had nine players drafted into the NBA, tops in the Big 12.
That last point is significant in terms of noting how much turnover Barnes has managed throughout his time here. The 2006-07 team, for example, started four freshmen and a sophomore. Great players have come, great players have moved on, and Rick has just kept reloading and winning.
Looking ahead, as amazing as Monday night's win over Kansas was, the most important stretch of the season begins Saturday in Waco, as Texas takes on Baylor, A&M, Oklahoma, and Kansas State (road). Winning two of four would be satisfactory. Winning three would be delightful. Sweeping all four would be... Yikes. Real good.
Bottom line: there's never been a more exciting time to be a fan of Texas basketball.