Discussion

Texas poised for a tourney run

After years of heartbreak, the Longhorns are in prime position to exorcise demons

Updated: March 16, 2011, 1:12 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Basketball Prospectus

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Texas Longhorns is that no one's talking about them. But how can you not?

Start with the fact that, even at this late date, Ken Pomeroy's laptop still regards the Longhorns as the nation's fourth-best team. Certainly Rick Barnes' team lost some games starting in mid-February, but UT did at least make it to the Big 12 title game. It's not particularly their fault that the consensus second-best team in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks, plays in the same conference. In fact, on a possession-for-possession basis, Texas was equal if not superior to KU in Big 12 play.

So how come no one expects the Horns to do anything in the tournament as a No. 4 seed? History -- as in very recent history. Though Barnes has in fact reached two of the past five Elite Eights, people tend to have short memories. And the most recent memory under "Texas in the NCAA tournament" is of the Longhorns losing to Wake Forest in the Round of 64 last year.

Considering that last year's Horns were ranked No. 1 in the nation in January, it was a very long fall. After a 17-0 start, Texas went 7-9, entered the tournament as a No. 8 seed and promptly lost to a program that was about to fire its coach.

Of course the Longhorns aren't alone when it comes to disappointments in March. For better or worse, teams like Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are also commonly perceived as having underperformed in recent NCAA tournaments. The Panthers haven't been to the Final Four since 1941, while the Irish haven't glimpsed the Sweet 16 since 2003. That's a lot of March heartbreak -- all of which can be found on the upper seed lines of the 2011 bracket. We've seen that Texas is a No. 4-seed this year. Pitt secured a No. 1 seed, while Notre Dame received a No. 2 seed. Something's got to give, right?

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