UConn grabbed its second national championship in six years with its 82-73 win over Georgia Tech in Monday's national championship game. Despite a loss to the Huskies in the national semi-final, Duke came in at No. 2 in the final rankings, one spot ahead of the Yellow Jackets. Oklahoma State, the fourth of the Final Four teams, landed at No. 4, followed by St. Joseph's, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Kansas and Texas. Despite a supposed "down" year, the Big 12 still managed three top 10 spots, including at least one Final Four team for the third straight season.
Last season, the Horns finished with a No. 3 final ranking after winning the South Regional before bowing out to eventual national champ Syracuse. Texas has now finished in the top 20 of the final coaches' poll for three-straight years: No. 18, No. 3 and now No. 10.
The Horns will look to extend that streak next season with a mixed cast of returners and highly touted newcomers after the graduation of seniors Brandon Mouton, Royal Ivey, James Thomas and Brian Boddicker. ESPN.com college hoops analyst Andy Katz picks Texas as the No. 21 team heading into the fall, commenting: "Sure the Longhorns lost four seniors, but the recruiting class of Daniel Gibson, Lamarcus Aldridge and Mike Williams should immediately make this program a Big 12 contender again."
Expectations are even higher. And anything less than competing for league title (with preseason No. 1 Kansas and No. 19 Okie State) from Rick Barnes' 2004-05 bunch would truly be a surprise and a disappointment, which is a testament to UT's rise to among the top 15 or so programs nationally on a yearly basis.