Only six days ago, the Texas Longhorns were warming up on the court at the Sprint Center in Kansas City in front of a small group of friends and family when Big 12 officials removed the Longhorns and the Texas Tech Red Raiders from the floor.
As sports leagues across the world quickly suspended play with the spread of coronavirus, the conference canceled the tournament. Within hours, the NCAA tournament was also canceled, along with spring sports.
So, for the first time since 1938, there’s no NCAA tournament for fans to watch and obsess over. There was no Selection Sunday, with teams either elated to make the field or crushed to miss it.
What fate was more likely for the 19-12 Longhorns following a late five-game winning streak that preceded a crushing blowout loss to the Cowboys in the regular-season finale? As one of the teams most firmly on the bubble, opinions differed.
The Teamcast on BartTorvik.com had Texas as the first team out of the field with a 42.2-percent chance of landing an at-large bid, while BracketMatrix.com included the Horns in 41 of the 90 brackets on the site.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi included Texas as one of his First Four teams as the No. 12 seed in the East Region with an opening game against Richmond. A subsequent BPI projection in ESPN’s mock bracket had the Spiders winning that game and advancing. The key caveat to that simulation? Since it is March Madness, ESPN used simulation No. 2020 to predict the games, so Richmond advancing in this particular simulated bracket represents a single simulation rather than the average result of a large number of simulations.
The Horns had better luck in the NBCSports.com bracket. Texas drew Xavier in the First Four, advancing past the Musketeers in a rematch of last season’s hard-fought NIT game in the Erwin Center to face No. 6 seed Penn State in the South region. The simulation predicted a five-point loss for the Horns to knock them from the Big Dance.
Given the strange nature of the 2019-20 basketball season — the positive start, the blowouts, the inconsistent play, then the injuries and the remarkable run that followed — perhaps it’s fitting that it was stopped prematurely with nothing left to do but speculate on how it might have ended.