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Saturday Roundup: Texas Assumes Command

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I'm comfortable saying this was as exciting a Saturday in college basketball as we've had all year, and though the games aren't as "meaningful" in the sense that many of today's losers won't be knocked from postseason play, when watching and enjoying all the action, that distinction loses a lot of its meaning. At least to me.

What did today's action mean for Texas? The Longhorns not only improved to 10-2 in Big 12 play, but they got a lot of help around them. Kansas dropped a road game to Oklahoma State, while Kansas State fell in Waco to Baylor. That leaves the 'Horns in outstanding shape to earn the conference's #1 seed for the Big 12 Tournament. Owning the head-to-head tiebreak over Kansas, Texas would have to lose two of its final four to fall behind the Jayhawks. And Kansas State now has four conference losses. Even if Texas were to drop Monday's game in Manhattan, wins in their final three would lock up the #1 seed for the Big 12 tourney.

Texas enjoyed good news nationally, as well. Tennessee, a team the 'Horns beat by 20 in December, gutted out a tough road win over Memphis tonight. Not only does that bolster Texas' win over the Volunteers, but it dings Memphis a little bit. And the Tigers have been Texas' top competition for that South Regional (Houston) draw. Bottom line: everything, including a #1 seed in Houston, is in play for Texas right now. Literally, everything. If you're the greedy type - today's a good day to dream big. We control our postseason destiny.

Looking Ahead

  • A win Monday over Kansas State won't be easy. The Wildcats are 6-0 at home on the season, with wins over Texas A&M (+21 points), Iowa State (+25), Kansas (+9), Nebraska (+15), Oklahoma State (+21), and Missouri (+37). Though Texas can afford to lose Monday and maintain its excellent position, a win would put the Longhorns in a commanding position down the stretch. It won't be easy.
  • Keep a close eye on Memphis the rest of the way. Conference USA isn't nearly as strong as the Big 12, and if they drop another game down the stretch or in their conference tournament, the 'Horns will have an excellent opportunity to steal that top line in Houston away from the Tigers. When Memphis was the clear #1 overall seed, we more or less had to angle for that #2 slot in Houston. After today's results, everything remains in play. Memphis remains a favorite, but Texas is on a roll. Seven straight, with a huge opportunity Monday.
  • That #1 seed in the Big 12 tournament is more important than it seems. Though winning that tournament isn't necessary, it's proved elusive for Rick Barnes during his impressive 10 years in Austin. We've never won it, and I know Rick would like to. I know I'd like to, as well. If Texas does hold on to the #1 seed in the tourney, Kansas and Kansas State would likely battle in a semifinal as #2 and #3. That's a good thing, as this year's tournament is in Kansas City.
  • All you football fans who aren't sure whether you want to invest yourselves emotionally in basketball: get on board, damnit. No matter how this season plays out, this basketball program is probably every bit as healthy as the football program. Rick doesn't have his national title yet, but if you evaluated each sport and ranked the top 5-10 programs therein, Texas would be on both lists. It's absolutely incredible what Rick Barnes has done.

--PB--