There is no rational basis for coming to the conclusion that the Texas Longhorns can win the required four games in Kansas City to push their way into the NCAA basketball tournament, and yet here we are. Playing out the string. Or something.
Texas faces the Texas Tech Red Raiders for the third time this year. The teams have split the season series, each winning at home. I have written about the Red Raiders rather recently, so refresh yourself here. And so here we are, far away from home, in Kansas City where the crowds won’t start arriving until tomorrow when the Jayhawks and the Cyclones descend upon this city.
Tonight the arena will be dead. Quiet, like a library. Like a church and a cemetery. Tonight it it will be one thing for one team and one thing for another.
For the Longhorns, it isn’t all that clear what is left to play for beyond pride. But pride counts for a lot or at least something. For the sort of hyper-competitive kid who is capable of spending the many hours in the gym needed to be a D-I player, pride is a potentially powerful thing. Too bad that both teams have it.
The college basketball postseason is fragmented and strange, and it has even gotten more strange and more fragmented than it was the last time Texas was considering postseason tournaments other than the official men’s basketball championship.
So there is a possibility that the season will end with the Big 12 tournament — possibly tonight, and possibly later in the week — and a possibility that it will not. This might be the last time that Mo Isom, Kendal Yancy, Shaq Cleare, Jarrett Allen, and Andrew Jones suit up for Texas, or not. Or the last night for some and not the others.
And so as we grind into the end of an exceptionally difficult basketball season, just remember that this is only a diversion for us, while it is a major portion of these kids lives.
And kids like to win. Particularly kids wired the way these ones are, which is rather different from you and me, who are now soft and middle-aged.
Win or go home.
The game tips off in Kansas City at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU.