It’s a positive point — in a season mostly lacking them — that the Texas Longhorns basketball team have not checked out for the year. Your loyal bloggers already have at least partly done so: Barking Carnival’s most recent game recap was instead a guest post about the difficulty of learning circus acrobatics — which is perhaps an apt metaphor for this basketball season — while I have already quietly surrendered to the fact that there are few things left for me to say about a season that is grinding to an unspectacular finish as we wait until next year.
That engagement gets a test tonight in Morgantown, where when things go bad, they go really bad. In an earlier season contest at home, Texas did a nice job of not completely coming apart against the West Virginia defensive pressure, and nearly pulled what would have been a nice victory over a top-rated team. But things will be harder tonight, as the Mountaineers will have the advantage of taking on the young Longhorns backcourt at home.
Last Monday, Bob Huggins’ team built a sizable lead at Kansas, which would have potentially held the Big 12 championship race open for a few more games. For the first 37 minutes of that game, West Virginia looked so good. The Mountaineers looked every bit of the team that Ken Pomeroy’s system currently rates as the third best team in the nation, eventually sitting minutes away from a double-digit victory in Lawrence. But a late-game collapse — no, let’s call it what it is, it was a meltdown -- let the Jayhawks force the game to overtime and ultimately win.
Although catching Kansas is now pretty much out of the question for WVU, the Mountaineers still have something for which to play. West Virginia is in the hunt for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The darlings of computer models — Team Rankings gives Huggins’ team a 25 percent chance of making the Final Four, and a nearly one in ten shot of winning the whole thing — the Mountaineers are looking to finish the year strongly and set themselves up with the best seed line possible.
But Texas still has a faint chance tonight. If Kerwin Roach and Andrew Jones can protect the ball, if Jarrett Allen and Shaq Cleare can hold down the defensive glass, and if the Longhorns can slow down WVU’s dangerous back court of Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, and Tarik Phillip, then yes, there’s a chance. There is a very small chance.
But if these things don’t happen, Texas’ trip to West Virginia will be about as fruitful as John Brown's was, and will end in similar fashion.
The game tips off at 8 p.m. CT in Morgantown, and airs on ESPN.