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NCAA Tournament chances keep improving for Texas

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Four straight victories, including two wins over ranked teams, and a weak bubble have the Horns increasingly in contention for the Big Dance.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Sixteen days ago, the Texas Longhorns suffered a blowout loss to an Iowa State Cyclones team without star guard Tyrese Haliburton, leaving head coach Shaka Smart’s team at 14-11 and without any projected path to an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

Now in the midst of a four-game winning streak and coming off two wins against ranked opponents that currently serve as the Q1-A victories for the Longhorns this season, the NCAA Tournament odds have spiked for Texas as the Horns increasingly enter more brackets.

In fact, of the 96 brackets tracked by BracketMatrix.com, Texas is now an 11 or 12 seed in 19 of them ahead of Tuesday’s rivalry game in Norman against Oklahoma. CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm has the Longhorns as one of the last four teams into the tournament and matched up against Richmond in a First Four game. Even ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is starting to move Texas up on his bubble — in an update to his Bracketology early on Monday, Lunardi had the Horns among the Next Four Out, but after spending the day reviewing the seed list, Texas is now behind North Carolina State as the first teams left out of the tournament.

So, what do the current odds look like for making the Big Dance? Six days after BartTorvik.com put the chances of the Longhorns receiving an at-large bid at six percent, those odds are now up to 38.4 percent on Monday evening. Notably, eight of the 10 teams with the most similar resumes made the NCAA Tournament.

With the Sooners surging off the bubble following wins over the Red Raiders and Mountaineers, the stakes keep increasing for Tuesday’s game. If the Longhorns can pull off a fifth-straight victory and a second-straight road win, Texas would have a strong chance of finishing the regular season with six wins in a row.

In a normal year, the Longhorns might still be on the outside looking in despite that late surge, but the bubble is weak enough that teams like Clemson and UCLA, with NET rankings in the 70s, are considered fringe candidates for it.

As for teams that Texas should watch in the coming days, Palm has Mississippi State, Cincinnati, Rhode Island, and Arkansas as his first four teams out of the tournament, while Lunardi has Cincinnati in and Richmond out, with Purdue, Memphis, and South Carolina as the Next Four Out in his early Monday update.