After finishing the regular season with back-to-back blowout losses, the Texas Longhorns are headed to Kansas City this week in an effort to earn an NCAA Tournament bid with some success in the Big 12 Tournament.
Head coach Shaka Smart’s reeling team is the No. 6 seed, which presents a challenge — the Horns are the lowest seed with a bye, which keeps Texas from having to play in the first round on Wednesday, but also means a more difficult opponent in its opening game.
That opponent? The Kansas Jayhawks, which failed to win or share in the regular season conference title for a 15th straight season. The Jayhawks are the No. 3 seed and will face off against the Longhorns at approximately 8:30 p.m. Central on ESPN or ESPN2 on Thursday.
If the Horns can advance past the Jayhawks, Smart’s team will play the winner of that game at approximately 8:30 p.m. Central on ESPN or ESPN2 on Friday.
Texas has played well against Kansas this season, falling 80-78 in Lawrence in mid-January and then winning 73-63 in Austin. Since then, guard Lagerald Vick left the team to attend to personal matters, further depleting a roster that had already lost Udoka Azuibuike to a season-ending injury.
For the Longhorns, the most significant personnel storyline will revolve around senior guard Kerwin Roach II, who is currently suspended for a violation of team rules. He’s missed five games, a stretch during which Texas has gone 1-4, and the school hasn’t yet announced whether he will return for the postseason. However, there was a report this week that athletic director Chris Del Conte will reinstate Roach for the Big 12 Tournament.
As for any Big 12 Tournament hopes, barttorvik.com still has Texas with an 89.8 percent chance to receive an at-large bid, though the most similar resumes now include four teams that did not make the tournament. Meanwhile, 88 of the 94 brackets tracked by bracketmatrix.com include the Horns.