After the Longhorns loss at Kansas on March 3rd, the Longhorns and their fans knew they had to get a win in Kansas City at the Big 12 tournament to make the big dance. The Longhorns got that win last night over Iowa State and look to be safely in the tournament for the 14th straight season. Texas reached the 20-win plateau with the victory and along with a 9-9 record in a tough conference, 19th best strength of schedule, and 44th best RPI; it would take a string of upsets in conference tournaments to knock them out. While still on the bubble, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has moved them above the "last four in" group. Of course if they beat Missouri tonight, they become a lock.
After struggling in the 1st half and scoring only 25 points, Rick Barnes delivered a half-time speech that finally, perhaps for the first time this season, got to his young players. Barnes reportedly said, "Let's just say we are on the bubble," Barnes recalled saying. "Now if I write down NIT or NCAA, which one would you put your name under? Which one? Whichever one you want, you have to earn it." After trailing by 11 early on in the 2nd half, Texas went on a 22-4 run and in my opinion played their best basketball of the season. The Cyclones would battle back, and the two teams traded shots until the Longhorns leader J'Covan Brown gave them the lead for good with a 3-point play with 36 seconds left.
It's been a rough season for Longhorn fans as Barne's young team has gone through growing pains, but maybe this will be a turning point, and set the stage for next season. Myck Kabongo has finally started to play with better pace and is taking care of the ball better and Sheldon McClellan is becoming a big time scorer; they're putting it together at the right time. If they lose to Missouri, they'll likely be an 11 or 12 seed and won't be expected to advance, but if Barnes can convince everyone to stay, they could be a top 10 team next year.