Three reasons why Texas will win the Big 12 tournament


Texas, the No. 7 seed in this year's Big 12 tournament, took down TCU for the third time this year Wednesday night in Kansas City. It was the first of four wins at the Big 12 tournament the Longhorns will need to reach the Big Dance for the 15th straight season. Here are three reasons why Texas will get those other three wins and earn that NCAA Tournament spot:

1. Texas is playing its best basketball of the year

The Longhorns are 6-3 since Myck Kabongo returned from a 23-game suspension, when they were 10-13. Half of their wins with Kabongo on the floor have come in overtime after going 0-3 in overtime games without him. Those numbers don't lie. Texas is winning games it would not have won without Kabongo, who had 16 points and six assists in a 70-57 win over TCU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament Wednesday night. The Longhorns had no trouble sweeping the Horned Frogs in the regular season without Kabongo but with him back in the lineup they're a different, much improved team.

2. McClellan and Lewis coming off the bench, coming up big

It's not just Kabongo's return that has Texas playing so well but the strides sophomores Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis have made over the last couple weeks. Since returning from a concussion he suffered in a loss to Kansas State on Feb. 23, Lewis has hit at least three three-pointers and scored at least 15 points three times in four games. That's something he did only twice in his first 27 games this season. Meanwhile, McClellan, since playing only seven minutes and being held scoreless in a home loss to Oklahoma State on Mar. 2, is averaging 20.7 points on 52.8 percent shooting from the floor while connecting on 40 percent of his three-point attempts and 90 percent of his free-throw tries. Both are coming off the bench -- Texas has used the same starting lineup every game since Kabongo's season debut -- and have been extremely effective recently.

"We've got 11 starters," head coach Rick Barnes said. "Every guy I started at some point in time because of different circumstances throughout the year. But I do think that we're figuring some things out with a full rotation... They're starting to understand more of a rotation that we may have to go to."

3. It's March -- the most wonderful, most unpredictable time of the year

You can have Christmas. I'll take March Madness. Anything can happen. If Liberty and Western Kentucky can win their conference tournaments, the Longhorns can win theirs. The only way they can get to the Big Dance for the 15th straight year is to run the table in Kansas City. And, as good as they're playing, that makes them a team you don't want to see right now.

"They're a dangerous team right now," TCU head coach Trent Johnson said. "If anybody's capable of winning three more, they're it."

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