Just a month ago, the Longhorns suffered an embarrassing 80-63 loss at the hands of the Aggies of Texas A&M in College Station. It was a low point on the season, perhaps even lower than the 97-84 loss at Missouri two weeks before (perhaps...), and Texas' post season position was spiraling downwards.
Fast forward. The Longhorns have reeled off eight straight victories and Texas is a now in position to obtain a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, Texas head coach Rick Barnes said the Horns' tournament position is the last thing on his mind.
"I really don't care about it. I really don't. If we do what we're supposed to do if we win our share of games all that plays out," said Barnes.
His team echoes his sentiments. Sophomore guard Justin Mason downplayed the significance of a No. 1 seed, due to the unpredictability of the tournament.
"I think we could be a No. 1 seed," Mason told Inside Texas, "but we try not to think of things like that as much because we know that any team, once they make it into the tournament, they can make it into the Final Four."
Any team can make it to the Final Four, as Mason pointed out, but it's a much easier path for the top seed, as T.J. Ford and the 2003 Longhorns can attest. Some argued that Ford's team was the weakest of the No. 1 seeds in the '03 tournament, yet the Horns ended up as the only No. 1 in the Final Four in New Orleans.
Having the highest seed could also make for a very Texas-centric path to the championship. While there are no opening round games in the state of Texas, with a Houston regional and the Final Four in San Antonio, there is a lot of buzz around a potential championship trip for Texas. Of course, buzz is also something Banres said he doesn't put a lot of stock in.
"We're not going to care about the buzz. The buzz hasn't done anything for us all year and it's not going to do anything for us now. We are where we are right now because we've continued to improve as a team," said Barnes.
The Longhorns next battle is at Texas Tech, where the Texas will face for the first time a Red Raider team led by Pat Knight, the son of legendary coach Bob Knight. who left Lubbock midway through the season. Texas Tech is the next opponent up, but according to Longhorn center Connor Atchley, that's the only things the Horns are focused on (with a few minor adjustments, of course).
"We really are just looking at it one game at a time, we're looking at Tech," said Atchley. "The only adjustment is we're cutting back practice a bit to prepare our bodies for what's to come."
What's to come after the match-up with Texas Tech is a pair of home games to close out the regular season against Nebraska and Oklahoma State, the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City and the NCAA Tournament. Whether or not Texas is legitimately a No. 1 seed, or beyond that, a title team, remains to be seen, but begins in Lubbock on Saturday.
Game Info: The Longhorns play the Red Raiders at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday when No. 5 Texas (24-4, 11-2 Big 12) takes on Texas Tech (15-12, 6-7 Big 12). The game broadcast is on CBS.