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Texas hoping for historic NCAA Tournament berth

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No .500 team has ever received an at-large selection, but the Horns are the best .500 team in 18 years of KenPom.com’s rankings.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Texas Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

In a season full of some remarkable wins and even more disappointing losses, at least the Texas Longhorns won’t have the misery extended through a full 90-minute NCAA Selection Show — the shortened 60-minute program will announce each region shortly after 5 p.m. Central.

Coming off of five losses in the last six games as the Horns slid towards and then, apparently, off the NCAA Tournament bubble, that may well feel like a merciful death after head coach Shaka Smart’s team went 4-10 in close games.

A victory in any one of those five late losses likely would have been enough to make the 68-team field. Take out any one of the bad losses to teams like Georgia, Oklahoma State, and Radford, and there would probably be much less drama in anticipation of a much better outcome on Sunday.

Instead, the Horns are widely considered one of the first four to eight teams out of the tournament as Smart’s group hopes to make history — no .500 team has ever received an at-large bid, not even since the field was expanded from 64 to 68 teams in 2011.

But Texas isn’t the typical .500 program, which is why there’s even a need to have this discussion. According to the KenPom.com rankings, which span 18 years, this is the best .500 team in that stretch at No. 30 nationally, with 2014-15 Florida (No. 34). serving as the only other highly-ranked outlier. Credit victories over No. 6 North Carolina, No. 10 Purdue, No. 16 Iowa State, No. 19 Kansas, and No. 23 Kansas State for that unusually high ranking.

Credit some bad “luck” and bad losses for being on the wrong side of the bubble — in addition to going 4-10 in close games, Texas ranked No. 350 out of 353 in KenPom.com’s Luck rating, the deviation between a team’s expected record and actual record.

It was that type of season.

“It sucks. Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve,” sophomore guard Jase Febres said after the Big 12 Tournament loss to Kansas. “But I feel like if we get that one more chance, man, we’ll make some noise.”

Realistically speaking, however, that noise will almost certainly have to come in the NIT, as only 10 of 134 brackets tracked by bracketmatrix.com have the Horns in the field.

How to watch

NCAA Selection Show

Time: 5 p.m. Central

Television: CBS

Streaming: March Madness Live

Printable bracket

NIT Selection Special

Time: 7:30 p.m. Central

Television: ESPNU

Streaming: WatchESPN