Conference: Big 12
Record: 20-12 (11-7)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 6 (West)
How they got to the Big Dance
The Longhorns secured an at-large bid to make their third straight NCAA tournament appearance. They played a lot of quality opponents in the regular season, including No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 7 North Carolina, Michigan, UConn and Vanderbilt. The drawback of playing a schedule as difficult as theirs is that there is the potential to lose a lot of games. That is exactly what Texas did. They dropped games to Washington, Texas A&M, Michigan, and UConn. However, they had strong resume builders with a commanding 72-58 victory over Vanderbilt and against UNC, winning 84-82 at home. Texas played well in league play, too. They earned wins over No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 21 Iowa State, No. 22 Baylor, Texas Tech and two over No. 9 West Virginia. They dropped both games to Kansas. The Longhorns entered Big 12 tournament play as the 4-seed and played 5-seed Baylor in the quarterfinals. Baylor won handily, 75-61. Texas is ranked 26th in RPI.
Why they are a legitimate contender
Texas is coached by Shaka Smart, who made a name for himself by taking No. 11 VCU to the Final Four in 2011 and bringing the Rams to five straight NCAA tournaments. Smart holds a 7-5 record in the NCAA tournament. This year’s Texas team is also one of the most talented teams Shaka Smart has ever coached. Kenpom.com has the Longhorns ranked 44th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 32nd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Their defense is definitely stronger than their offense, as they only allow 68.1 points per game, which is ranked 83th in the NCAA. If Shaka Smart can recreate the same kind of magic he found with VCU five years ago, the Longhorns will be a team to watch out for.
Why they are not a legitimate contender
The Longhorns are a mediocre offensive team. They are ranked 212th in the NCAA, shooting 43.2 percent from the field. They also shoot only 33.9 percent from beyond the arc, while converting a dismal 66.5 percent of their shots from the charity stripe. The Longhorns also don’t rebound very well. They are 264th in the NCAA in total rebounding, pulling in only 34.53 rebounds per game. Texas has a negative rebounding margin of -1.4. Teams that are constantly outrebounded have a history of underperforming in the tournament, so the Longhorn’s chances don’t look very good this March.
Player to watch – G Isaiah Taylor
The 6-foot-1 junior leads the Longhorns in minutes, so expect to see him a lot during the NCAA tournament. He leads Texas in three more major categories: points, assists and steals. Taylor scores 14.8 points, tallies 4.9 assists, and records 0.9 steals per game. He shoots 41.8 percent from the field while converting 81.1 percent of his free throw attempts. Taylor’s scoring ability was stifled in a lot of the Longhorns’ losses, including a five point and an eight point output against Kansas and Baylor recently, so Texas will need him to make shots in order for them to advance.
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