I asked some other BON writers to join me in a discussion of Texas' best-case scenario for the weekend. The Longhorns entered the week needing nothing less than a Big 12 Tournament title to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament, and lo and behold they are halfway there. Two more wins and this disappointing Texas team is going dancing. Below are thoughts from myself, Jeff Asher, Wescott Eberts, and Michael Pelech. Hook 'em!
Abram: We're getting ahead of ourselves here, but whether Texas plays Tech or Baylor Saturday the Longhorns will have the pitching advantage by virtue of having come through the winners' bracket and therefore having played one less game than their opponent. So let's talk about possibilities for Sunday, assuming a Texas victory tomorrow. There are two choices: either the Longhorns would play Oklahoma State, the two-seed who has barreled through the winners' bracket; or the winner of Oklahoma/Kansas State, either of which will have won at least three straight (beating the other, then beating Okie State twice).
It goes without saying that the best case scenario for Texas involves beating Tech or Baylor on the first try Saturday morning, and then having the KSU/OU winner force a second game against Oklahoma State. Given that obvious truism, here is the question for the group: is Texas best served by playing Kansas State/Oklahoma for the Big 12 title, or Oklahoma State? In the former case, Texas would be playing an objectively more beatable squad instead of a Cowboys team that swept them back in April. In the latter case, Texas would be playing the only remaining team that is guaranteed an NCAA Tournament berth and therefore would have much less to play for than Texas would. What do you say?
Jeff: It's funny, but the Nebraska guy we exchanged questions with a few months ago emailed me before the Big 12 tourney started and asked if now was the time for both of our teams to win their respective tournaments. My response was essentially 'please lord just end this'. Then Texas beat Tech and Baylor, TCU lost twice and suddenly it was all fun again for the first time in months. The pessimist in me would say let's just lose to Oklahoma State and get it over with, but where's the fun in that? Let's beat whoever is next, beat the Sooners, make the Baton Rouge regional, get complete games from French, Culbreth and Mayes, go to College Station, crush the Aggies, then win the CWS. Isn't that what Fresno State did in 2008?
Wescott: As painful as this season was, it looks like Augie is coming back next year, so for those who want him to retire, there's no real benefit in missing the postseason since that doesn't seem like it would result in Steve Patterson making a change. And I happen to love June baseball -- give me all the June Texas baseball possible. This team hasn't been able to pull out many one-run games and parts of the lineup have seriously underachieved, but pardon the optimist in me for feeling like maybe the last two days have helped the group hit its collective stride. There's still plenty of pop despite the poor batting averages of some starters and the additions of Ty Culbreth and Connor Mayes to the rotation have both been really significant in my opinion because Kacy Clemens and Chad Hollingsworth simply haven't been effective as a result of their respective injuries. It's not going to be easy to beat Oklahoma State in the finals, if it comes to that, but count me as one who believes that Augie and this team may just have a little magic left this season.
But it would be better not to have to do that. Since Kansas State and Oklahoma were two teams that Texas actually had some success against -- sweeping the Wildcats and losing two one-run games against the Sooners -- the Longhorns are best-served by playing the weaker opponents. If there were time constraints that could force Oklahoma State to save a key starter for an upcoming series, the Cowboys would be the choice here, but regardless of the fact the game wouldn't matter for the Pokes, the fact that OSU swept Texas is the deciding factor here.
Abram:I agree with both of you that ultimately, we would be better served by playing KSU or Oklahoma (preferably KSU, though that seems the longest shot of the bunch). Oklahoma State is playing great ball right now, and even if the game is technically meaningless to them in terms of NCAA Tournament seeding, the Big 12 Championship is a worthwhile goal in and of itself and the chance of actually winning the national title is slim. It's not like the Pokes would just roll over and hand Texas an NCAA bid. The title would feel more legitimate if it involved beating one of the two truly good teams in the league, but this is no time for such lofty idealism. Let's hope the Sooners or Cats find some magic tomorrow, take down Okie State, and have to run Johnny Allstaff out there to face the Longhorns on Sunday.
Michael: If the last two games are the beginning of a postseason surge, then give me a Big 12 title and a trip to regional. A shot there against Oklahoma State does nothing for me, I'd love to launch into a Big 12 title off the backs of the Sooners.Totally irrational fan #hottake from someone disappointed in where the season turned: catch fire, beat OU, win the Big 12, get to the postseason and give me June baseball. The offensive talent is still in place, and Augie may be pushing just enough buttons to get it done.
And maybe, if we win, Augie will share the dirty joke he told Tres against Baylor.