Bracketology: Texas playing its way out of the bubble, gaining momentum

Robert Trevino

To say that Texas has had its ups and downs in the 2019–20 season would be an understatement. Yet with 13 regular season games remaining, the Longhorns find themselves at 11–6 overall with a 3–2 record in Big 12 play.

There are some disappointing losses on the Longhorns’ résumé, particularly earlier in the season — most notably a seven-point loss to USF and a 13-point loss to Hawaii. But there are also impressive victories on their record. Texas went to Knoxville and beat then-No. 17 Tennessee and then-No. 1 Stanford at home, giving Texas a résumé that will surely separate itself from other teams on the bubble if need be.

And the bubble was where Texas stood, at least until last week. In the last seven days, the Longhorns have handled business. First it was with a 92-66 trouncing of a lackluster Texas Tech team at home. That win was followed by a road win in the “Little Apple” against Kansas State.

Eighth-year head coach Karen Aston has at times been frustrated with the careless handling of the ball and a habit of starting games off slow and playing from behind. She voiced her frustration after a thriller in Morgantown against then-No. 19 West Virginia, in which Texas came up just short.

“We had a shot to win and, in my opinion, played two quarters hard,” Aston said. “So it’s encouraging for us, but how many times are we gonna do this before we learn lessons about not being ready to play?”

But with the last two wins in conference play giving Texas an above-.500 mark in the Big 12 for the first time all season, the concerns about the Longhorns potentially missing the NCAA Tournament — which would be the first such occurrence since Aston’s first year in the 2012–13 season — have been slightly quelled for now.

ESPN currently has the Longhorns settled in as a nine-seed in the Tournament and just off the “bubble,” where they could potentially be on the outside looking in. If Aston’s team can keep up the recent level of play and be more consistent, there should be no worries about Texas making another appearance in the Tournament come March.

There is hardly any question about whether or not this team has the talent to solidify a berth, and with a showdown against No. 2 Baylor looming at the end of the month, they’ll get a chance to show it.

“Overall, I think we showed spurts of the team that we can be,” sophomore center Charli Collier said. 

However, there have been stretches of play that suggest that this is no sure thing. After the loss on the road to Hawaii, Aston saw it as a reflection of the team’s mentality.

“We just lose our focus,” Aston said. “We play really good and then we don’t do the things that we’ve been doing to get the lead. It’s a lack of focus, a lack of discipline. We have to continue to work on those things, but it’s a real problem for us right now.”