Speaking to media members after the tourney selection show, Barnes conceded that he told the team after it lost at Kansas that the Longhorns were probably in, even before playing, and defeating, Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament. What's further, he said he told his wife Candy Saturday night after flipping on the TV and seeing Cincinnati play Louisville that "we'll be playing Cincinnati."
Barnes said his statement was based more on the feeling that the Longhorns would get someone like the Bearcats, because he knew they would be somewhere near the six-line that the Longhorns would be playing against.
"I felt like we were in, but you never know," Barnes said. "I'm excited for our guys because I know they're excited. I just told them from where we started, they earned it, and they had to do it the hard way. "
The hard way included overcoming a massive roster turnover, a huge influx of youth, and Barnes admitted, a bunch of hard coaching. Barnes said the players weren't allowed to lean on any crutches through the season, and were instead told, "This is what we expect."
"They played their way into it," Barnes said.
"The three of them had the best years they've had since they've been at Texas," Barnes said.
In addition, Barnes talked about never using youth as an excuse, crediting the freshmen, especially late additions Jaylen Bond and Sterling Gibbs, stating that without those two, "We wouldn't be here."
Barnes said that he never had to tell the players about the then-13-year streak of making the NCAA Tournament (14 after Sunday's show).
"I never once said it," Barnes said. "But I don't think I have to. I think they're aware of that."
Barnes said he didn't necessarily fear not making the tournament, but that once the conference schedule was released — a very front-loaded one for the Longhorns — a very real question was placed in front of the young team.
"One of the biggest concerns was, depending on how it went, could we bounce back," Barnes said.
The answer, apparently, was yes, with the Longhorns rebounding to a 9-9 finish in conference play. And now that the tournament is here, Barnes said he doesn't have any plans to make the players more loose.
I think some guys play better when they play on edge," Barnes said.
Barnes said the NCAA Tournament was based on matchups, and he summed up what teams looked at when they saw the Longhorns on their line.
"They're going to play hard," Barnes said. "They're going to compete. They're going to probably say that you've got to work hard at guarding J'Covan Brown and make other guys score. I think you look at us now and say, 'hey, we need to really go inside and try to pound them inside' things like that.
To that point, Barnes joked that he had suggested Wangmene try to play with a soft cast.
"I believe in Novacaine," Barnes quipped.
The reason for Barnes wanting another post presence isn't a secret, with Texas taking on Cincinnati in the opening round.
"When you think of a Big East team, [they are] a team that's going to be physical," Barnes said. "They've been tested every way you can be tested in that league (in terms of) different styles."
The Bearcats also boast a top big man in Yancy Gates.
"He's a man child," Barnes said. "He's just strong and physical. I'm not sure we've played anybody really like him this year, that's as imposing around the basket and (does) the things that he can do."
Barnes later admitted that Gates was a lot like Thomas Robinson in terms of the way he can clear space and create problems with his natural strength.
"I don't think anybody can show us anything we haven't seen," Barnes said. "It's just a matter of us executing."