Wednesday night’s win over Texas Tech probably got Texas into the field of 68.
A win over No. 13 Iowa State Thursday night at 6 p.m. would make that nearly certain. It could also help them avoid the possibility of playing in that “play-in” game as one of the last four teams in.
But there’s more to the conference tournament than positioning yourself for the “real” tournament. There’s a sense of pride. There’s a sense of want.
“I think we have a good chance to get into the tournament,” sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor said. “But that right now can’t be a focus. We’re looking to win the Big 12 Tournament.”
That run continues Thursday night against Fred Hoiberg and his second-seeded Cyclones that have given the seventh seeded Longhorns a tough time lately. Iowa State swept the season series with a pair of wins that were a lot more lopsided than the final scores indicated.
While many teams struggled to create offense against a Texas team with the fourth-best opponent field goal percentage in the country, Iowa State did not. The average against Texas is 36.7 percent; Iowa State shot over 50 percent. They put up 89 and 85 in the two meetings, carving apart the Texas zone and man defenses for easy twos and open threes.
“Iowa State is a great team,” Taylor said. “They can put a lot of points on the board and it’s our job when they go on 8-0 runs, 10-runs, whatever it is, we have to stay composed. If we stay composed, we have a good chance of winning.”
It’ll take a team effort to beat a balanced, consistent Iowa State attack, but if they Longhorns play as crisp as they did in the second half against Tech, you never know.
Texas was able to pound the ball inside and control the tempo of the game, something they struggled with all year. Barnes even acknowledged that that run may have been their most efficient basketball of the year.
“I think this team still hasn’t reached its potential yet,” Taylor said. “It was good to see our wings filling the lanes, Cam dunking and just being a defensive presence. We know we can do a lot of great things and that’s what we’re trying to do in this tournament.”
It’s not that uncommon to see a low-seed get hot and make a run in the Big 12 Tournament. Baylor as the seven-seed last year and on the bubble of the NCAA tournament went all the way to the Big 12 finals.
“We were in their situation last year,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said after the game against Texas last Monday. “It's not easy, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for just competing in the end, too.”
That run in the Big 12 tournament fueled a deep run in the NCAA tournament that saw them make the Sweet 16.
“We are looking to come to this tournament to compete and win as many games as possible,” Taylor said. “And potentially win the championship.”
The game will be televised on ESPNU.