Big 12 Hoops Title At Stake Against OU

For Texas, it's almost fitting that a share of the Big 12 title as well as clinching the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament comes down to a Senior Day showdown against archrival Oklahoma. Almost.

The scenario is simple: a Texas (24-5, 12-3 Big 12) win gives the program its first league title since his head coach Rick Barnes' first season in Austin (1998-99). The Horns would also claim the top-seed at the Big 12 Conference Tournament next weekend in Dallas. A Longhorn loss would give Kansas the outright crown, dropping Texas to the No. 3 spot. The No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Conference Tournament faces the winner of the No. 8/No. 9 matchup, 11:30 a.m., next Friday at the American Airlines Center. The No. 3 seed is scheduled to play 8:30 p.m. Friday against the survivor of the No. 6 vs. No. 11 matchup.

Sunday's game carries bigger post-season implications for Texas than the conference tournament. A win would give No. 6 Texas a 6-2 mark this season against nationally ranked teams and would likely solidify no worse than a No. 2 seed when NCAA bids are announced March 12. But the Horns are in danger of slipping to an NCAA No. 3 seed if they limp into the post-season with a 2-3 mark down the stretch.

It boils down to this because the Horns followed their most complete game of the season, a 25-point shellacking of Kansas on February 25, with their sloppiest performance of the year when they fell at Texas A&M Wednesday. The Horns were guilty of 18 turnovers and scored a season-low 43 points, managing just 15 points following intermission. Junior forward P.J. Tucker became the unofficial poster child for the loss in Aggieland after he dribbled around the perimeter on Texas' last possession, allowing the shot clock to expire and the score tied with 5.9 seconds in the game. The turnover set up Acie Law's three-point buzzer-beater, making Sunday's tilt must-win for Texas.

Tucker's first option was to dish off to F LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge was virtually unstoppable against Kansas, draining 9-of-10 FG, but was M.I.A. at A&M. The big guy was just 2-of-5 from the field and had just three rebounds. F Brad Buckman got into foul trouble and went the entire ballgame without a FG.

In short, look for Texas' front court to play with a Bevo-sized chip on its shoulder. Not that added incentive should be necessary when the Sooners come calling.

Tucker leads the team with 16.2 points-per-game and is tied with Aldridge as the team's chairman of boards (nine rebounds-per-game). Tucker has also posted a team-best 56 steals this season.

No. 19 Oklahoma (20-6, 11-4 Big 12) has, improbably, won four straight games by one-point (unprecedented in Big 12 history). Taj Gray has scored in double-digits in 10 of his past 11 outings and has averaged 17 points the past four ballgames. Michael Neal leads the Big 12 in 3-point FGs (3.4 per-game) and in 3-point FG percentage (43.2). Terrell Everett is the Big 12 assist leader (6.8 per game).

The Sooners have taken three straight over Texas and hold a 45-21 lead in the all-time series. The Horns had won five straight over their archrival prior to the current skid. The Sooners own a rare Erwin Center advantage, holding a 16-11 record on Texas' home court.

Senior Day marks the final home collegiate game for F Brad Buckman and G Kenton Paulino. It is quite possibly Aldridge's last Erwin Center appearance as the sophomore will mull his NBA options at season's end.

A Texas victory would also notch the most regular season wins (25) in school history.

CBS will televise the Texas-OU game starting at 3 p.m. (Central).

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