One of the best seasons in the history of Texas Longhorns basketball continues on Sunday.
Fresh off of their second blowout victory of the Big Dance, a 83-71 win over 3-seeded Xavier, the reigning Big 12 Tournament champs are headed to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008, where they’ll square off with the Miami Hurricanes. You can watch every March Madness game at SlingTV.
How to watch
Time: 4:05 PM CT
TV: Sling TV, CBS
Streaming: March Madness Live app, CBS Sports app, CBS.com
Odds: Texas -4, per DraftKings
Courtesy of the Hurricanes’ fairly stress-free win over the 1-seeded Houston Cougars, Texas is now the highest seed still dancing. But, of course, as has been proven time again this tournament and as Miami made abundantly clear to get here, the seed doesn’t matter a bit.
The Canes are a 5-seed, but they’re within reach of a 30-win season and have just one fewer loss than the Longhorns at 28-7. Competition level matters, to be sure, and the ACC wasn’t exactly the Big 12, and thus, Miami entered March with just 5 Q1 wins, which would have been tied with Texas Tech for the fewest in the Big 12. But that didn’t prevent them from having their way in March, beating Indiana and Houston by a combined 31 points to reach the Elite Eight, and now, it’s Texas that’s tasked with slowing the red-hot Hurricanes, which have won 12 of their last 14 games.
In Miami, Texas will meet a potential, up-tempo offense led by its guard trio in ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong, Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack, and former George Mason transfer Jordan Miller. Although the 6’4 Wong was the best the ACC had to offer this season, it was Pack who headlined Miami’s upset over Houston, refusing to miss much as he hit 7-10 threes as part of his 26 points to steal the show over Wong’s 20 and Miller’s 13.
Unsurprisingly, with this trio leading an offense that ranks No. 6 in adjusted offense, per KenPom, Texas’ guards and the Longhorns as a whole will have to be locked in for 40 minutes.
Their guard play is really good,” Texas interim head coach Rodney Terry said. “They share the basketball really well. Their interior players played really well against a really physical Houston team. Nothing but respect for Coach Larrañaga and what he has been able to do over the course of his career. His teams just win. We know we have our hands full.”
And speaking of having their hands full, that’s especially true for Christian Bishop if Dylan Disu (left foot bone bruise) isn’t able to go, which seems likely, as he’ll be the primary matchup for 6’7, 248-pound rebounding machine and Arkansas State transfer Norchad Omiere (13.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG).
Collectively, the Canes are a group that can get hot in a hurry and change the game in a matter of moments, and that’s helped them average just shy of 80 points this season.
Fortunately for the Longhorns, they can be that type of team, too, and especially in March, the Longhorns’ veteran star guard trio of Tyrese Hunter, Marcus Carr, and Sir’Jabari Rice, as well as forwards Timmy Allen and when healthy, Disu, have proven more than capable of responding to punches with their own in flurries. Such is a significant reason they’ve trailed for only a handful of minutes since the start of the Big 12 Tournament and enjoyed four double-digit wins.
But the major reason for that, which has in turn benefited Texas’ increasingly unshakeable offense, is a defense that’s completely changing games and refusing to allow teams to get into consistent rhythms or find some semblance of comfort. In their last seven games, the Longhorns are allowing only 60 points per game, limiting opponents to just 38.6% shooting, and forcing 13 turnovers.
In short, they’ve been causing complete chaos on that end of the floor, and in a matchup with a Miami squad that ranks outside of the top 100 in adjusted defense, it could be a deciding factor.
And if it is — of if anything is, for that matter — and Texas survives and advances, their historic season will now be headlined by the program’s first Final Four appearance in 20 years since T.J. Ford took the Horns that far in 2003.
But for now, Terry doesn’t want Texas thinking about a Final Four, or even a title, where their +400 odds are the second-best. For now, Terry just wants his Longhorns to be in the moment against Miami, and let the rest take care of itself.
“I think my one constant message to our guys was, ‘Be where your feet are. Stay in the present right now. And we’re going to control what we can control,’” Terry said. “All the goals we had for the season are still in front of us.”
*Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.