NCAA Tournament berth rewards Texas’ turnaround

Posted Sunday, Mar. 16, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
More information

No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Arizona St.

8:40 p.m. Thursday, Milwaukee


Records: Texas 23-10; Arizona St. 21-11

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Coming into this season, there weren’t many outside the Texas locker room who thought the Longhorns would be playing in the NCAA Tournament. Yet here they are.

Texas (23-10, 11-7 Big 12) earned a No. 7 seed in this year’s Big Dance and will face No. 10 seed Arizona State (21-11, 10-8 Pac-12) Thursday in the Midwest region. After not reaching the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in 15 years under coach Rick Barnes when they went 16-18, the Longhorns are trying to win an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2011.

“We knew it,” sophomore guard Javan Felix said. “You never don’t think you have a tournament team. But we always knew we were good enough to do anything we wanted to do.”

After being picked to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 in the conference’s preseason poll, the Longhorns stormed out of the gate this season, winning 10 of their first 11 games. That run included wins over fellow NCAA Tournament teams Mercer (26-8) and Stephen F. Austin (31-2), along with a second straight win over North Carolina, this one an 86-83 victory in Chapel Hill.

“Early on, I thought we were a really good team,” sophomore forward Cam Ridley said. “We started the season [10]-1 … Ever since our first scrimmages, I knew it was going to be a really good team.”

Texas seemed to be coming back to earth when it started 0-2 in Big 12 play, but that was before a seven-game win streak that included consecutive wins against Top 25 squads Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas, which was ranked No. 6 when it fell to the Longhorns.

Texas has gone 5-6 in its last 11 games, including a lopsided Big 12 semifinal loss to Baylor on Friday, but has an opportunity it didn’t have last season — to make a deep NCAA Tournament run for the first time since an Elite Eight appearance in 2008.

“We just know that the next game that we lose will be our last,” sophomore guard Demarcus Holland said. “That’s motivation for us because we love playing this game and we love playing it together. We just have to stick together and trust the game plan.”

Despite finishing the 2012-13 regular season with a losing record, Texas earned a spot in the College Basketball Invitational, where they fell to Houston in the tournament’s first round. The Longhorns lost their top three scorers from that team and missed out on some blue-chip in-state recruits, but they find themselves in the Big Dance they missed out on last year.

“There’s no doubt it’s a better feeling knowing we’re going to the NCAA Tournament rather than the CBI. Each loss hurts,” sophomore forward Connor Lammert said. “The next time we feel this feeling, it’s the last time we’re going to feel it for the year. This feeling sucks, and everyone here is going to remember it next time we take the floor.”

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?

Wednesday, November 26Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Wednesday, November 26Full Scoreboard
Portland «105Final | Box
Washington87Final | Box
Cleveland «113
Golden State «111Final | Box
Brooklyn «99Final | Box
Toronto «126Final | Box
New York102Final(OT) | Box
Dallas «109
LA Clippers «104Final | Box
Sacramento89Final | Box
Houston «102
Milwaukee «103Final | Box
Utah82Final | Box
Oklahoma City «97
Indiana100Final | Box
San Antonio «106
Denver112Final | Box
Phoenix «120
Memphis «99Final | Box
LA Lakers93
Full Scoreboard
Week 13Full Scoreboard
Chicago 12:30 PM ET
Detroit TV: CBS
Philadelphia 4:30 PM ET
Dallas TV: FOX
Seattle 8:30 PM ET
San Francisco TV: NBC
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Baltimore TV: CBS
Cleveland 1:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Indianapolis TV: FOX
NY Giants 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: FOX
Carolina 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
New Orleans 1:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: FOX
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: CBS
Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: CBS
Arizona 4:05 PM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
New England 4:25 PM ET
Green Bay TV: CBS
Denver 8:30 PM ET
Kansas City TV: NBC
Miami 8:30 PM ET
Full Scoreboard
Wednesday, November 26Full Scoreboard
Washington2Final(OT) | Box
NY Islanders «3
Winnipeg «2Final | Box
Philadelphia2Final | Box
Detroit «5
NY Rangers3Final | Box
Tampa Bay «4
Carolina0Final | Box
Florida «1
Toronto3Final(OT) | Box
Pittsburgh «4
Los Angeles «4Final | Box
Chicago «3Final | Box
Calgary «2Final | Box
San Jose0
Full Scoreboard