Well Prepared

Every season has those defining moments be it good, bad or indifferent.

One of those positive, reassuring, don't-forget-this-feeling moments for the Longhorns happened when they walked off the court in North Carolina having just defeated the Tar Heels 86-83 on Dec. 18 for their sixth straight win.

Assistant coach Rob Lanier turned to Texas head coach Rick Barnes and said, "One thing's for certain, we know we're good enough and talented enough."

Who'd have thunk it, huh?

You're well aware of the turmoil that surrounded this program before the season when it lost three of its best players to transfers and then another – Ioannis Papapetrou – to a overseas professional league.

Despite all of that then several inconsistent moments throughout the season – like losing five of their last eight games heading into the NCAA Tournament – the Longhorns, as Lanier said, are good enough and talented enough to compete with anybody.

And they'll have to be to get through the Midwest Region, which is widely assumed to be the toughest regional bracket in the tournament. It includes the likes of Wichita State (34-0), Michigan (25-8), Duke (26-8), Louisville (29-5), Kentucky (24-10), Kansas State (20-12), Saint Louis (26-6), Iowa (20-12) and Tennessee (21-12).

But which team shows up to face Arizona State on Thursday will be key.

If it's the same group that blew past West Virginia, 66-49, in the Big 12 Tournament, then a date with Michigan looks like a sure bet. If it's the team that didn't do much right the following day against Baylor then it could lead to an early exit.

The one thing Texas can rest its hat on is the fact that it finished third in the best conference in America. No other conference out there can claim seven teams in the tournament.

"It might not be the most talented in terms of individual players," said Barnes, who was voted conference Coach of the Year by his peers. "But without question, it's the best it's ever been in this league."

There were no nights off in the Big 12 this season, which meant UT couldn't look ahead at all. That's the same mindset they'll carry with them into the NCAA Tournament.

"There were no easy games," Longhorns guard Damarcus Holland said. "We had some tough losses, some tough road games. So we learned from those. Coach Barnes has really been stressing taking things one game at a time. I think that's what this tournament is all about. You don't want to look at the big picture before you take care of the task at hand."

The task at hand for the next three days are the Sun Devils, who have lost three straight games, including a 79-58 loss to Stanford in the Pac 12 Tournament.

They feature one of the best scoring guards in the country in sophomore Jahii Carson, who averaged 18.6 points per game and 4.5 assists per game.

"I know a little bit about him from his high school days," Holland said. "I know he is an explosive athlete and I know he plays confident. He is a shot-maker. I wouldn't be surprised if I had to guard him."

ASU also has a big front line led by 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski, who has 119 blocks on the season. That's a matchup Cameron Ridley feels he's prepared well for.

"I think [playing against bigger guys in the Big 12] has prepared me a lot for it," he said. "[Longhorns center] Prince [Ibeh] is basically 7-foot. I practice against him everyday. I think it will help me in that matchup as will playing against [Baylor's] Isaiah Austin and Corey Jefferson. I think the Big 12 has helped prepare me for these games."

Only time will tell if it'll be enough to get their first tournament win since the 2010 season. But one thing's for sure, they've got the talent to get it done.


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