AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns are back in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament after a torrid run of wins through the end of February. Texas is on a four-game wining streak with back-to-back “Quadrant 1” victories in the ever-important NET rankings.
The Longhorns upset No. 19 West Virginia in Austin and No. 22 Texas Tech in Lubbock for two big, resume wins last week which essentially vaulted them on to the “bubble” of the NCAA Tournament for the first time all season.
Texas closes out the regular season at Oklahoma Tuesday night and at home against Oklahoma State needing every win to keep pace for a tournament bid. The match-up against the Sooners presents Texas with another pivotal “Quad 1” win opportunity. OU currently ranks No. 40 in the NET.
There’s no reason Texas should even be in this position after a blowout loss to Iowa State in the middle of February appeared to foreshadow a bad finish to the season. However, the Longhorns are a team in a groove even without one of their best players in Jericho Sims.
Texas head coach Shaka Smart reflected on the challenges of playing for a spot in the postseason.
“Sometimes the best performers are on the brink. It’s a matter of being your absolute best, but you can’t lose your mind either. This time of year there’s a lot of projections and predictions…if they’re not making any projections about you that means you’re having a really bad year. We just try to harp on focusing on what we can control,” Smart said.
The Longhorns are a fringe tournament team in the latest projections from bracketology experts.
BracketMatrix.com, a comprehensive website that accumulates bracket projections from nearly every credible source, has Texas on the outskirts of the tournament — just shy of the “First Four Out” category.
Simply put, 68 teams will make the tournament and the Longhorns are currently ranked No. 73 in the field, according to BracketMatrix.
CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm didn’t make much mention of the Longhorns at this time last week, but is now projecting Texas as a tournament team following the win against the Red Raiders. Palm placed UT in the “First Four” games as a No. 12 seed against Richmond in Dayton.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi boosted UT up his rankings suddenly on Monday afternoon. Lunardi still projects Texas outside of the Field of 68, but inside the “First Four Out” category at No. 70.