Texas Is No. 1: Deal With It!

<I>Adonde esta Texas</I>? Texas is number one, baby, that&#145;s where! To all the sports media and hoops pundits who have waged the 48-hour piss-and-moan about the Longhorns&#146; top spot in the South Regional: deal with it!

It’s obvious, now, that Texas clinched the No. 1 seed the moment it swept the Sooners for the first time in 50 years, and that the ten-member NCAA selection committee members valued a Big 12 runner-up more so than conference champs in the Big East, ACC and Big 10. It’s obvious, now, (reassuring, actually) that the regular season still counts for something.

Oh, did you say something, Jayhawk fans?

First, here’s what Texas head hoops coach Rick Barnes had to say:

"I don’t want to sound like I’m talking with both sides of my mouth because the No. 1 seed is not something our team has focused on all year," Barnes said. "But if I sat down to make a case for Texas as a top seed, I think I’d have a pretty good case to do that. I’m sure there are five, six or seven teams that could make the same claim for themselves. But we played in the best league in the country, and the way we fared against the Top 10 this year, I could make a case for our team being one of top seeds in country."

Texas has been chronically under-seeded in the NCAAs for years, but this is no make-up call. Here’s why: the Horns’ entered their meaningless game against Texas Tech Friday with the nation’s No. 2 RPI rating and No. 3 ranking in both major wire service polls. The Horns are now at No. 5.

"I told the team before (Tournament selections) came out that I don’t care if we’re a one, a two or a three," Barnes said. "Last year when we went into the Tournament, I felt we could win it and now I don’t remember what seed we were."

For now, Barnes' approach to his team’s lofty status is to "take it and see what we can do with it."

There’s no question that Kentucky and Arizona deserved top seeds heading into the Madness. I honestly thought Big East Tournament champ Pittsburgh would challenge Texas for a top spot. But I never, ever, ever expected Kansas to drop to a second seed in the NCAA’s toughest region.

Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson also lobbied for the Jayhawks.

"We have two (Big 12) teams that are one seeds and there is an argument that it might not be the two right teams," Sampson said Monday. "Kansas has an argument. How can you win your conference championship over 16 games and not be a No. 1 seed? To me, that reflects how strong our conference is."

He’s right. Kansas has one helluva argument. But the Jayhawks could just as easily direct their ruffled feathers at Oklahoma as well as Texas. OU didn’t even "win" or "place" in the Big 12 derby. They finished third. And no third place conference finisher has ever been a No. 1 seed -- until now. Of course, the Sooners understandably point to the fact that they beat Kansas (in Norman) and that they eventually parlayed their third straight Big 12 Tournament title to a No. 1 seed.

Kansas beat Texas. Texas beat OU (twice). OU beat Kansas. It’s just a vicious cycle, isn’t it? The only distinction is that Texas won a road game at Oklahoma (on Senior Day, no less). The Jay-birds did not.

If there was ever some semblance of consistency relative to how a tournament’s outcome determines seeding, then perhaps the Arizonas’, Kansas’ (and now) Texas’ of the college basketball world would show some interest in the festivities.

Those who dive headfirst into the March Madness office pool know that the heated rhetoric is all part of the fun surrounding the Tournament. It will subside once the games begin. And those who know anything Barnes understand that he doesn’t allow his players to get caught up in it. His approach has been businesslike ever since selections were announced.

"I’ve gone through this thing enough now to know for every team brought into the tourney, it’s a one-shot deal and anything can happen," Barnes said. "I still feel that way regardless if we’re a one or a four. I can’t allow myself to get caught up in anything other than to do my job in order to prepare my team."

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