A brutal stretch came to a close on Saturday, with the Texas Longhorns falling at home to now-No. 9 Texas Tech to split the week at 1-1. Now, only two weeks remain before March Madness gets going, and there’s an opportunity for the No. 20 Longhorns to regain a bit of momentum. But they’ll need some of their most important contributors to look the part from here on out.
With that in mind, here’s some thoughts on the Texas Tech loss, individual struggles, Andrew Jones’ hot hand, and the significance of the next two games.
Looking back on the Texas Tech loss, it’s not one I’d put too much stock into. It’s probably one that’s a little extra frustrating for Texas fans given the circumstances, but the fact is TTU is just better right now. More so, they’re proving to be one of the best teams in the country, and the Red Raiders’ roster makeup with several physical, athletic talents simply isn’t a great matchup for Texas. A win certainly could have helped Texas’ tourney resume, but to see the forest for the trees, Texas still seems fairly comfortably set for the big dance. Per TeamRankings, the loss dropped Texas from a likely 4-seed to a likely 6-seed, while Barttorvik still favors Texas as a 4-seed. So, while the loss obviously doesn’t help the Horns, it doesn’t hurt them too much at this late stage in the season. If there’s any takeaway of significance, it should be that Texas, missing a key presence in Tre Mitchell, nearly won, despite suboptimal performances from nearly everyone. But to that end...
Marcus Carr’s scoreless showing is only slightly concerning going forward. Just days removed from a 16-point effort in a OT win over Oklahoma, the senior was held scoreless for the first time in his entire career. I’d be surprised if we see another scoreless day during his last few weeks in Austin. We haven’t quite seen the dynamic scoring version of Marcus Carr we saw at Minnesota, but he entered the weekend averaging 12.2 since the start of Big 12 play behind eight games with at least 14 points. Simply put, it’s safe to assume he’s going to produce at a notable level more times than not and maybe the worst game of his career shouldn’t change that perception. The one concern, however, is given the significance of the last couple weeks of regular season and on into March Madness, Texas simply can’t afford performances like his against TTU, his three points vs. Tennessee, or four points vs. Oklahoma State. If there is another one of those games, it could be a key storyline in Texas’ getting bounced from the Big 12 tourney or the big dance.
Timmy Allen’s recent inconsistency is a little more concerning. He came up huge with 24 points in Texas’ upset of Kansas, and dropped another 20 in Texas’ win over Oklahoma, but excluding those two, he’s averaging just 6.3 points on 10-of-28 (36%) shooting since the Tennessee game. Not so coincidently, of those four underwhelming games, Texas is just 1-3, while his two 20-point displays ended with wins. Most recently, he added just six points against Texas Tech, but foul trouble limited him and he didn’t notch his first points until less than six minutes remained. Running so hot and cold isn’t an ideal scenario for a senior, especially when it’s directly impacting the win-loss column, and much like Carr, an ill-timed no show can be big factor in why the season ends. But also like Carr, his career productivity gives reason to believe he’ll be much better than he’s been in a few of his recent outings.
Andrew Jones is surging at the right time. The Longhorns super senior has been a notable scorer far more times than not throughout his lengthy tenure in Austin, hitting big shots all along the way. That’s exactly what he’s been doing as of late, scoring 20 points in back-to-back games and cracking double figures in each of his last five. With March quickly approaching, he seems to be “the guy” you want with the ball in his hands when you need a bucket in a big moment, and more so, he relishes those moments and typically lives up to them. So looking ahead to the win-or-go-home portion of the season, this version of Andrew Jones is one that can spark a run, and just given the personal adversity he’s overcome to get to this stage, you can’t help but hope he gets a chance to sink a big shot in the big moment in the big dance.
This week is a bit of a must-win for the Longhorns. The last few weeks of the schedule have been a gauntlet, seeing Texas go 4-3 over their last seven. The final week of the season will be grueling, as well, with Texas hosting No. 7 Baylor before visiting No. 5 Kansas to close the regular season. Understanding that Texas did upset KU in Austin, the odds of a sweep and doing so in Lawrence is unlikely, and Baylor is simply another bad matchup for Texas. So, Texas could certainly benefit from a couple wins over a 16-8 TCU and a 14-12 West Virginia before that stage. Not only do you simply want the wins to improve your tournament resume just a bit, but you absolutely want some momentum on your side entering the final week and going forward into March when that momentum matters more. They’ll obviously need to perform at a level that leads to wins, but this will will essentially be the first time the Horns have been able to catch their breath in a while, and it will be the last time they’ll get to this season.