After weeks of speculation on whether Texas would make the NCAA Tournament, the Longhorns’ fate is now in their hands.
On the bubble leading into Selection Sunday, Texas found out within the first 10 minutes it had officially made the tournament. After an up-and-down season, the No. 11-seeded Longhorns face No. 6 Butler at 1:45 p.m. Thursday in Pittsburgh in the Midwest Region.
“When you get into this tournament, it’s a new start for everybody,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “I don’t care if you’re Kentucky or any team in this tournament, it’s a new start and you realize it’s one game.”
Texas’ new start comes against a Butler team that hasn’t found recent success in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs have been to the tournament only once — in 2013 — since their back-to-back title-game appearances in 2010 and 2011.
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“They play really hard,” junior guard Demarcus Holland said. “They’re going to fight it out to the buzzer like we do, and I just know it’s going to be a brawl.”
Butler averages 69.6 points a game and Texas is close at 67.9, but their offensive schemes are much different. Texas, one of the largest teams in the Big 12, focuses on interior play, with big men such as Prince Ibeh (6-foot-10) and Myles Turner (6-11), both of whom are taller than Butler’s tallest player, 6-9 Kameron Woods.
Texas will look to use its size advantage in the paint and on defense. The Longhorns lead the nation with 7.88 blocked shots per game.
“We don’t really practice blocking shots, but, I mean, we have guys that are really good at that,” senior forward Jonathan Holmes said. “That’s how you can change the game.”
Ranked in the preseason top 10, the Longhorns failed to meet early expectations, finishing seventh in the Big 12.
The job security of Barnes, who has appeared in 16 NCAA tournaments during 17 years at Texas, has come into question. But Texas (20-13) has stayed focused on its final goal.
“The ultimate goal is to be in this tournament,” said Barnes. “We’re here and I just hope that we can play our best basketball this time of year.”
No. 11 Texas vs.
No. 6 Butler
1:45 p.m. Thursday,