Ten days ago, the NCAA Tournament hopes for the Texas Longhorns were dead in the water after a blowout loss to a bad Iowa State Cyclones team. With three straight wins, however, including Monday’s victory over the No. 20 West Virginia Mountaineers, there’s now a potential path to the Big Dance.
Following the Iowa State game, the projected finish for the Longhorns meant the only chance Texas had to make the tournament was dependent on winning the Big 12 Tournament to earn the league’s automatic bid. Barttorvik.com put those odds at 0.9 percent. Now, with the win over West Virginia, Texas now has odds to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large again — six percent.
Regardless of what happens down the stretch, there are some issues that the Longhorns will have to overcome. First and foremost is how thin the resume really is right now — no school with a similar resume has ever made the tournament and the marquee win prior to Monday was against a ranked Purdue team. Unfortunately, the Boilermakers are currently 14-14 with a 7-10 record with a season that looks a lot like the Longhorns last season. KenPom.com slots Purdue at No. 25 nationally, but right now ESPN’s Joe Lunardi doesn’t have the Boilermakers among his first four our or his next four out.
“Texas hasn’t beaten a single team that’s in the NCAA field, current or projected,” Lunardi said on Monday’s broadcast. “Best win outside the league was Purdue — it doesn’t look like the Boilermakers are gonna make it. And in the league they’ve kinda been among the have-nots.”
That’s a problem right now. Texas doesn’t have any really bad non-conference losses — although the high number of blowouts is likely a problem — but the resume needs a serious boost over the final three games and the Big 12 Tournament.
Lunardi believes that the the game in Norman next Tuesday against the Sooners provides a particular opportunity, as Oklahoma is one of Lunardi’s last four teams in. By finishing the regular season with two more wins and securing a winnable game in the Big 12 Tournament against a lower-tier team might be enough, in Lunardi’s estimation.
“And that might just sneak them in because, remember — more teams are playing their way out right now than the other way around,” Lunardi said. “It’s always been that way and I think it always will be.”
So keep an eye on those last eight teams in, as their fates are intertwined with the fate of the Longhorns. A win on Saturday in Lubbock is unlikely, but also won’t necessarily eliminate Texas from NCAA Tournament contention.
While the Horns do have some control over their own destiny once again, it’s a longshot.