Chris Beard’s Texas Longhorns are coming off of a week during which they traveled to the most hostile environment they’ll likely ever enter, which they left with a loss, only to return home and deliver the No. 20 Iowa State Cyclones a 22-point blowout loss.
Now they’ll look ahead to Kansas and Baylor as the schedule becoming more daunting down the stretch.
Here’s a few thoughts on the previous week, and what’s to come.
- Everything about Texas’ trip to Lubbock was less than ideal. Personally speaking, I was in school at Kentucky during a couple incredible runs, and I’ve watched and covered college basketball for about a decade now, but I’ve never seen an atmosphere remotely as wild/hostile as what Texas walked into on Tuesday. And that includes leading up to the game when fans were swarming the bus to let mean ole’ Chris Beard know they’re hurt. It was insane, seemingly unprecedented, incredible, and truly hate-filled all in one. And it made a difference. Texas was overwhelmed out of the gates, and even as they scrapped to stay in the game, the crowd essentially made sure the momentum always remained on Texas Tech’s end. Elsewhere, it was just clear things weren’t going in Texas’ favor in Lubbock, like the plus-11 foul discrepancy in Texas Tech’s favor (25 to 14), which was the largest margin of the season for Texas and the only time they’ve been called for 10 more fouls than their opponent. Or like Kevin Obanor, who made just six total threes in his previous six games (6-of-22), drilling five from deep against Texas — he followed that up with an 0-of-6 effort against West Virginia. Simply put, from the crowd, to the officiating, to Texas Tech just catching fire offensively at times, Texas dealt with some circumstances that would be difficult for just about everyone to win again, all on top of the Red Raiders proving to be a really good group under Mark Adams. Sometimes, there’s just a little too much to overcome, and that was the case for Texas in front of arguably the craziest crowd TTU will ever have.
- Marcus Carr is coming into his own offensively. The up-and-down play by Texas is probably overshadowing his individual success a bit, but in the last six Big 12 games, Carr has improved his productivity to 16.1 points and 3.8 assists per contest. Again, Texas dropped three games during that stretch, but shifting the focus to the final stretch of the regular season and on into March, that’s an incredibly encouraging sign for the Longhorns. Early on, it seemed as if Carr was being too passive in hopes of smoothly fitting into the roster and creating opportunities for others, but this version of Marcus Carr is the one Texas needs to win big games. His confidence is noticeable and he’s consistently taking — and making — some big jumpers. Texas offense as a whole remains inconsistent and a concern, but if Carr can maintain this level of play from here on out, it can alleviate a lot of that.
- Jase Febres’ cold slump continues. Admittedly, it’s a bit difficult to get into a rhythm when you’ve played just 63 total minutes throughout all of Big 12 play, but Febres playing time is also in direct correlation with his productivity. Febres has been around the Forty Acres long enough to prove that he can change the dynamic of a game with just a few flicks of his wrist — Texas probably doesn’t win the Big 12 Tournament last season if he doesn’t sink five threes against Texas Tech. But now, he’s made just one three this year, as in the year of 2022, and that came on Jan. 4 as part of a 1-of-3 effort against Kansas State. Febres hasn’t connected on a single three since then, bringing his 2022 total to just 1-of-11. His struggles might have him glued to the bench for much of the remainder of the year, but I can’t help but think him finding his long lost shooting stroke could be the difference in a game down this daunting final stretch for the Horns.
- Texas’ odds at making the NCAA Tournament are becoming more certain with each win. It wasn’t too long ago that I had thoughts that this could be a team on the bubble if they imploded amid this current five-game stretch against ranked teams, but wins over Tennessee and ISU were quite simply huge for the Horns’ Match Madness hopes. Now, as it stands, the 17-6 Longhorns own three Quadrant 1 wins and five Quadrant 2 wins, giving them. a 99.8 percent chance to dance per barttorvik.com, with the projected seed around the four or five range. Looking ahead to Texas’ final eight contest, there’s potentially as many as seven more Q1 wins on the table, and the other could be a Q2. Now, Texas winning all eight of these opportunities is highly unlikely, but statistically speaking, the Longhorns are damn near guaranteed to make the tourney at this stage, and each win will only further solidify those odds. I was a bit concerned about this team’s post-season upside as the offensive inconsistencies lingered on into Big 12 play, but at the least, it seems they’ve done enough in the past couple weeks to almost lock in a desirable bid in Chris Beard’s first season. As long as they don’t collapse down the stretch, win the games they’re supposed to, and steal one or two of the rest, Texas should feel incredible good about where they’re at when the games matter most.