So far this season, the Longhorns have a 9–6 record in the Big 12, sit in a tie for third in the conference and are 4–2 against TCU and Texas Tech, the top two teams in the Big 12.
But as good as those numbers may seem, they don’t matter. Instead, here are a few numbers that do: a 20–21 overall record and the No. 104 RPI.
Those are numbers that the NCAA tournament selection committee will look at in a month’s time to determine the at-large bids for the tournament. And if those numbers don’t improve dramatically, the Longhorns will be left in Austin in June for the third time in the last five years.
So now the objective for Texas for the rest of the season. For the second-straight year, the Longhorns must win the Big 12 tournament in order to make the NCAA tournament.
The Longhorns are in this position because of a poor start to the year. Despite all of the talk of a new team and not repeating last year’s struggles, it was hard to tell a difference between the start of this year and the end of last year. Inconsistent hitting, defensive lapses and decent pitching continued to define this team.
Texas got swept at home by California, scoring just four runs in the first three games of the four-game series. The Longhorns then dropped a series at UCLA, followed that with a walk-off loss at rival Texas A&M and then lost a three-game series against Tulane.
But the worst of all was the string of four losses out of five Tuesday games, including a 5–0 loss to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, who currently holds an RPI rank of 231. And those losses helped the Longhorns’ RPI, which the selection committee relies on a lot, drop like a rock.
And now they’re starting to pay for that rough start.
It appears the Longhorns have turned it around at the moment. Texas has won four of its five conference series this season, and a series win at home against No. 23 Oklahoma State would certainly continue that wave of momentum.
But unfortunately, it’s come too late to save the Longhorns’ tournament hopes. Texas would likely need an RPI in the top 40 to even have a hope at an at-large bid. And those early season struggles will make sure that doesn’t happen.
The only way to save a disastrous season is to win the Big 12 tournament.