Minute by minute, we’re inching towards Selection Sunday, and odds are that when the field of 68 is set, the Texas Longhorns won’t be dancing.
Sitting at 16-16 (8-10) following five losses in their past six games, Shaka Smart’s squad slogged throughout the final — and most crucial — stretch of the season. Consequently, it’s quite likely that the Longhorns will be left just outside of the NCAA Tournament looking in, as evident with ESPN’s latest Bracketology with Joe Lunardi listing Texas as one of the “First Four Out,” alongside Belmont, Alabama, and Indiana.
Texas’ projected placement on the outside of the bubble comes just days after the Horns, despite three losses in four games to Oklahoma, Baylor, and Iowa State, were projected as a 10-seed as of March 8. Days later, following a double-digit loss to TCU to cap the regular season, Texas was still projected to sneak into the Big Dance as an 11-seed, per Bracketology.
However, Texas’ third consecutive loss, this time at the hands of Kansas to begin the Big 12 Tournament, may have been the Horns’ third and final strike.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm echoes Lunardi’s expectations, as he, too, has Texas on the outside of the field looking in.
According to Bracket Matrix, which considers 111 brackets, Texas is projected among the Next Four Out and listed in only 24 brackets.
If the projections prove true, it would mark the second time in three seasons that Texas has missed the NCAA Tournament under Smart’s tutelage.
Sure, one could potentially make a case for Texas to make the tourney, as the Longhorns rank among the top 30 per KenPom, own nine wins over Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 opponents, including wins over North Carolina, Kansas, and Purdue, and navigated one of the most difficult schedules in the country. Unfortunately for the 16-16 Longhorns, though, the fact remains that despite the few points working in their favor, no .500 team has ever earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
If Texas does find itself on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday, it wouldn’t be due to a lack of opportunities to swing the season in a more promising direction.
Of the Longhorns 16 losses, 10 were decided by no more than six points — just two possessions.
If the final few seconds of even one of those 10 games finished in Texas’ favor, we’re likely having a different discussion on the eve of Selection Sunday.
But they didn’t, and thus, we are not.