Horns have work to do to make Big Dance, must first win on road

Wes Maulsby

At last. The drought is over. Texas has won a basketball game. For the first time since Dec. 29, Texas enjoyed a victory as it beat Texas Tech. The losing streak is over, and with a win in its pocket, it is time to look forward. Can this season be saved?

The answer, which may surprise many, is yes. It is not yes because of what Texas is able to put on the court, but rather because of the incredible weakness of the Big 12 this season.

To say this is a bad year for the Big 12 is an understatement. Kansas is the only team in the conference ranked in the top 15. Kansas State enjoyed a brief stay on the cusp of the Top 10, but two straight losses have sent it back to No. 18. No other Big 12 team is ranked, and they all have at least five losses. Including Texas, there are four teams with fewer than 10 wins. Oklahoma has a decent record, but is still 4-2 in conference play.

A quick look at the schedule explains why Texas isn’t completely dead yet. Of the 12 games left, only four appear unwinnable, with three of those coming on the road. The other eight games are all winnable for the Longhorns. Does that mean this team will win them? Of course not. This Texas team has made a habit of finding ways to turn wins into losses. So while nothing is definitive, the team is certainly capable of winning most of its games to finish the season.

If Texas were to win six of those eight games and one of the other four, that would give it a 8-10 conference record heading into the Big 12 Tournament. That record would put them around the No. 7 or No. 6 seed in the conference championship. From there it wouldn’t be inconceivable for the Longhorns to make a run in the tourney and win a game or two. But that alone won’t cut it.

At 9-10, Texas has to win 11 of its final 12 games, 13 with one guaranteed in the conference championship to get to 20 wins. Twenty wins is typically the benchmark for a team hoping to squeeze into the NCAA tournament. Even then, it has to have some wins of merit, which Texas lacks right now. Even if Texas wins nine games and goes .750 to finish the season, it would only have 18 wins and it needs some magic to happen in the Big 12 Tournament to make the Big Dance.

Is Texas’ season completely over? Not quite. Can it make the NCAA tournament? Pretty much only if it wins the Big 12 Tournament for the first time ever. A .500 finish to end the season puts it in a long shot position for an NIT bid.

A down year in the Big 12 is the only thing keeping Texas’ head afloat this season. But if it can’t carry this win into some momentum, then it can kiss the postseason goodbye.