It’s not the Big Dance. It’s not even the NIT.
Whatever happens in the College Basketball Invitational won’t change the fact that Texas lost games to Division II Chaminade, dropped its first five games in conference play and finished the regular season with a losing record.
But by accepting an invitation to the CBI, the Longhorns can give a team that’s younger than any other in the country some much-needed seasoning and allow sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo one final opportunity to show NBA scouts what he can do.
“When you’ve got freshmen and sophomores, I think you want to play as much basketball as you can,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “If you’re a competitor, you’ve got to want to play. As disappointed as you might be because you didn’t get the ultimate goal that you wanted, you can throw your hands up and say, ‘It is what it is,’ but we have a chance to play.”
Texas goes to Hofheinz Pavilion to face Houston in the first round of the CBI on Wednesday night. The Longhorns (16-17) are 32-31 against the Cougars (19-12) all-time and last faced them in a 71-60 win over Houston in 2000.
If Texas wins Wednesday night, it will face the winner of the George Mason-College of Charleston game in the second round of the CBI next Monday.
“We still should want to play and continue to work,” Barnes said. “If for no other reason, with the games Myck Kabongo missed earlier this year, we should want to play as many games as we can for him to get him as many games as possible.”
Kabongo was suspended for the first 23 games of this season for accepting impermissible benefits this past offseason and providing false statements about the situation.
Texas is 6-4 since he came back, with Kabongo averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game during that stretch. The Longhorns were 0-3 in overtime games before Kabongo’s return and 3-0 in overtime contests with him on the floor.
A candidate to go pro after his freshman year, the chances Kabongo comes back to Texas for his junior season seem bleak, but he hasn’t announced his decision yet.
“I have no idea what Myck wants to do or is thinking,” Barnes said. “We sit down and we talk about what we think they need to do to get where they want to be. Just like they have to evaluate where they are, we have to do that as a staff. I think Myck will do just that. He’ll decide what’s best for him.”
As much as they’ve struggled this year, the Longhorns have had some promising moments. They clobbered North Carolina, a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, 85-67, last December. They logged overtime wins over another couple of teams in the Big Dance, Iowa State and Oklahoma, last month.
“After the North Carolina game, you knew our players were good enough to do it,” Barnes said. “It got down to consistency. We weren’t ever consistent overall, not everyone, but overall as a team defensively. We just turned the ball over way, way too much. We put ourselves in a position to really help other teams and hurt ourselves.”
But Texas could never find a way to be consistent long enough to put together a NCAA tournament-worthy resume. So, for now, the Longhorns will do what they can in the CBI.
Published on March 20, 2013 as "CBI offers chance to play".