AUSTIN (KXAN) — With one game remaining in the Big 12 Conference regular season, the No. 12 Texas women’s basketball team needs to get healthy if it plans on making a deep run in March Madness.
Texas plays Kansas State on Saturday in Manhattan to close out the schedule and will be either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed going into the conference tournament beginning March 9 in Kansas City. However, it could be a short stay in the tournament if the Longhorns have to play with a thin bench as they did against Baylor on Monday. Six players logged 18 minutes or more during the 63-54 loss at home, but head coach Vic Schaefer said he’s hopeful he’ll get a couple of key players back — Sonya Morris and Ndjakalenga Mwenentanda — in time for the NCAA tournament.
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One of the things the NCAA tournament selection committee looks at when seeding and placing teams in the 68-team bracket is player availability for the tournament. Having a full complement of starting and rotation players could be the difference in getting a favorable opening-round matchup. The hope is Mwenentenda will be available to play Saturday and Morris’ lingering quad contusion will be healed in time for March Madness.
DeYona Gaston appeared to suffer a leg injury during the Baylor game that she played through and Schaefer didn’t have an update on that after the game.
It’s not an ideal time to be banged up, but as far as the NCAA tournament selection committee is concerned, the Longhorns are a top-16 team in the country. In the seeding draft released Feb. 22, the committee slotted the Longhorns at No. 13 overall, meaning they would be a No. 4 seed in a regional bracket. The Longhorns are No. 11 in the NET rankings, making them the highest-ranked Big 12 team. Iowa State is at No. 14. The selection committee uses the NET rankings, which are a combination of several different metrics, as one of its main determinants in selecting and seeding the tournament. NET is an acronym for NCAA Evaluation Tool.
Before the NCAA tournament, however, the Longhorns have a shot at claiming the Big 12 regular season championship. That’s something they could have done against Baylor, but lack of depth caught up with them, among other things Schaefer mentioned. Selection Sunday is March 12 and as soon as the conference tournament ends, the field will be determined.