Texas Basketball: Will They Go Dancing?

Is Texas capable of going on a win streak?

Rick Barnes' coached teams have reached the NCAA tournament 16 straight years (tied for 3rd best all-time with Coach K), including 13 straight with Texas (tied for the 4th best active streak). This season however, the years of their most talented players leaving early has finally caught up with them and I'd say their chances at this point are grim. It started with TJ Ford leaving after his sophomore year, LaMarcus Aldridge and Daniel Gibson also left after their sophomore seasons, and it got worse with Kevin Durant, Tristan Thompson, and Corey Joseph leaving after just one season. Overall since 2003 they've lost 2 National Players of the Year (Ford/Durant), a Big 12 Player of the Year (PJ Tucker), five top-10 picks, and 8 first-round picks overall to early departure. With two Elite 8 appearances since TJ Ford's Final Four team, had some of these guys stayed to even their junior year, I think Texas would have a National Championship banner hanging inside the Frank Erwin Center today.

Barnes routinely turns in top 10 recruiting classes, but at the end of every year, guys routinely leave early. Very few programs can survive this type of turnover and continue to be a powerhouse every year. If Joseph, Thompson, and Jordan Hamilton had stayed for this season (none would be seniors), Texas would be a top 5 team; as it is, they likely won't make the tournament. The worst part of it is, there isn't a thing I would change with their recruiting strategy. What are they supposed to do, not pursue the most talented players? Kentucky has survived this sort of turnover, but Texas basketball isn't on the same level as John Calipari's squad. Their current freshman group was the 8th best recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals.com, and their class for next season is ranked 8th as well. They have talent, it's up to Barnes to coach the freshman mistakes out of them and bring them up to speed quickly.

To their chances of making the tournament this year, I think the magic number is 20 wins. They sit at 15-9 currently, so my guess is they need to win 5 of their remaining 7 games to make the tournament. That means sweeping their two games vs. Oklahoma, winning at Oklahoma State, winning at Texas Tech, and pulling off an upset at home vs. either Baylor or Kansas State. OU, OKST, and Texas Tech all have worse records than Texas, so it's not impossible, but their longest conference win streak this season is 2 games. To get the 5th win, their best shot would be with a mild upset at home over Kansas State. Texas only trails KSU by 1 game in the standings, is 13-2 at home (losses to Kansas & Missouri), and Kansas State has struggled on the road at 2-3 in conference play; it's a more winnable game than Baylor or at Kansas.

Is it possible for them to make the tournament? Yes, there are 6 winnable games left on the schedule and they probably only need 5 to get in. However, that's on paper, and they haven't lived up to expectations so far. They need Myck Kabongo to step up his game to make it in. When he turns the ball over and makes poor decisions, their offense is awful. When he doesn't make mistakes, they can compete with every team in the Big 12.

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