Let the Preparations Begin

The Texas Longhorns are in Little Rock, Arkansas preparing for the start of the NCAA Tournament and preparing for what Texas fans are hoping will be a championship celebration on the River Walk in San Antonio.

With a Regional in Houston and the Final Four in San Antonio, Longhorn fans are talking about a Burnt Orange path to a National Championship, but, according to Texas head coach Rick Barnes, he and his players aren't.

The Horns were bounced from the Big Dance last season in the second round and if they can't advance further than that, then it won't matter how many orange-clad fans can pack Reliant Stadium and the Alamo Dome.

"I asked (the players) what did they learn from a year ago and they said, 'You better bring it or it's over,'" said Barnes. "What's important is we go up and win one game and if we win one game then we get ready to win another one. You don't think about moving forward, you think about what's right in front of you. If you do start getting caught up with that, it won't matter."

Right in front of the Longhorns is Austin Peay. The Governors are champions of the Ohio Valley Conference and come in as a No. 15 seed. An opening-round upset is very unlikely for Texas, but it's not impossible. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 15 has only beaten a No. 2 four times. It's a very small, but a very real number.

Texas will also have to deal with a potentially contentious crowd. Austin Peay isn't exactly local, coming from Clarksville, Tenn., but the local fans may have a rooting interest. The rivalry between Texas and the University of Arkansas has faded a bit since the collapse of the Southwest Conference, but there are those in the Razorback and Longhorn faithful who remember those days well. However, Barnes said on Monday that his players are not among them and also gave a stern warning to any fans that may be unnecessarily abusive.

"Obviously, and honestly, our guys don't know the rivalry that existed between Texas and Arkansas," said Barnes. "We're scheduled to come play Arkansas next year and if the fans don't treat us well, we're not going to come. You can put that out there. I'm serious. We've got enough money here we can buy our way out of it. So, they'd better be good to us."

One of the biggest questions for the Longhorns in their preparation for the game is about the status of Gary Johnson. The freshman forward went down with a strain in his right leg during Texas' first game in the Big 12 Tournament and did not play in the remaining two games in Kansas City. Barnes categorized the injury as "day-to-day" and is optimistic he'll have the talented freshman available for the start of the NCAA Tournament.

"He's doing much better," said Barnes. "We're hopeful we'll have him by the weekend, but he is doing better. He is much better today. Yesterday he wasn't able to jump off it or do much but today he's almost 100 percent better. I think each day will give him a chance to get it better."

Texas' tournament-opening game against Austin Peay is set for Friday at 2 p.m., although the start time could move if the Miami-St. Mary's contest, set to begin at 11:30 a.m., goes long. Barnes said he's happy his team will play on Friday and not Thursday, giving the Horns an extra day of rest.

"I'm glad we're playing Friday, I really am. We're not set up for three games in three days and I thought we played out hearts out up there (in Kansas City)," said Barnes. "Obviously we were disappointed we couldn't win it, but we'll do the same things we've done all year, rest right now and get ourselves mentally focused. I expect our guys to respond because they've done that all year."

If Texas beats Austin Peay, they'll play the winner of Miami and St. Mary's at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday. All games will be on CBS.

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