On Thursday morning and early afternoon, it’s quite possible that the Texas Longhorns can do just enough to secure a bid to the Big Dance — that is, assuming that the NCAA tournament ultimately takes place at all given the current concerns surrounding coronavirus, which prompted the NBA to suspend its season on Wednesday evening.
In any case, Shaka Smart’s team is still set to suit up, as the Longhorns will meet the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament.
Texas and Texas Tech split their regular season meetings, with the Horns taking the most recent win, 68-58, on Feb. 29 in Lubbock. This time around, though, the stakes are much higher. With Texas entering at 19-12 and TTU just one game behind at 18-13, their Thursday morning matchup is quite arguably a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament — again, assuming it ultimately occurs.
Both programs will be aiming to bounce back from losses, though the Red Raiders have essentially entered a horribly-timed free fall, as Chris Beard’s club has dropped four consecutive games, including back-to-back outings against No. 4 Baylor and No. 1 Kansas by a combined seven points.
Now, a fifth straight loss for the Red Raiders could mean that a program that was just one win away from a national title last season may be forced to watch the entire dance from home. On the other hand, if Texas can’t bounce back from its embarrassing home defeat to Oklahoma State, the Horns may very well miss the tournament for the second consecutive season, which may ultimately signal the end of the Shaka Smart era in Austin.
So yeah, there’s quite a lot riding on the outcome of the Longhorns’ latest meeting with the Red Raiders.
Tip-off between Texas and Texas Tech is set for 11:30 a.m. Central on ESPN2.
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