Texas head coach Shaka Smart arrived in Austin in 2016 and his Longhorns have seemingly made a living on the bubble. They find themselves hanging on for dear life with one major opportunity left.
Texas enters a matchup versus No. 18 Kansas in the Big XII quarterfinal with a 16-15 record and an 8-10 mark in conference play. An above .500 mark in conference play is not exactly necessary, as it didn’t stand in the Longhorns’ way last season. 2 straight losses while on the bubble is not exactly ideal.
A loss today could be deadly. No team has qualified as an at-large with 16 losses, let alone an overall .500 record. Will early season wins against ranked teams in North Carolina and Purdue be enough to overcome that?
Let’s take a look at the latest on Texas’ bracketology outlook, along with its resume and a few key wins and losses that stand out.
Texas NCAA Tournament Resume
Those wins over the Tar Heels and Boilermakers do set the Longhorns apart from most bubble teams. Both rank in the top-12 in the NET, which has boosted Texas to No. 38 in the committee’s new evaluation tool. That’s nearly 20 spots higher than Ohio State, Joe Lunardi’s “Last Team In.”
In conference, they took out the Jayhawks and No. 18 Kansas State by double-digits (with the latter on the road). Victories over Iowa State and Baylor don’t hurt, either.
The problem is that the losses have piled up. The Horns are 2-7 in Big XII games decided by single digits. Also, as Jerry Palm of CBS Sports writes, they would be, “only the second team to make the tournament as an at-large team with a record worse than four games above .500.”
The regular-season finale was a defeat to fellow bubble team TCU in Austin, which is bad late impression to the committee.
Some losses have been downright inexcusable, including to No. 142 Radford, No. 82 Providence, No. 106 Oklahoma State and No. 102 Georgia (rankings based on Ken Pomeroy efficiency metrics).
Texas Bracketology Breakdown
A number of analysts and sites have differing opinions on how things look for the Horns at this point, but most point to them being in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s John Gasaway puts Texas in “must-win” position.
A loss there would leave Texas at 16-16 for the season. Obviously, it would be unheard of for a .500 team with 16 losses to receive an at-large bid, even if said team does have the neutral-floor win over North Carolina and one at home over Purdue. “Unheard of” here doesn’t necessarily mean impossible, it just correctly flags the fact that we’ve never seen it before. Reasonable observers can differ on the merits of the Horns’ profile, but, speaking empirically, asking the committee to do something it’s never done before is not a promising course of action.
The latest bracketology from Lunardi currently places them in a First Four play-in game in Dayton. A win against fellow No. 12 seed Ohio State would lead to an East Regional date with Marquette.
Palm is less optimistic, leaving him out of his bracket. The Longhorns don’t even appear in his most recent Bubble Watch, which speaks to his lack of confidence they’ll receive a bid.
Bracket Matrix, which aggregates 114 prognostications, says Texas is the “First Team Out.” Out of the 59 projections that inclued them, the average seed is between a 10 and 12.
You get one more chance, Texas. Take advantage, and we’ll talk again tomorrow.