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After a very impressive regular season that resulted in a 23-8 and 12-6 conference record, Texas went out and put the icing on the cake by winning the Big XII Tournament, where they blew out Kansas 76-56 in Kansas City. This Texas team had a high ceiling at the start of the season, as well as some expectations; most had Texas somewhere in the 12-15 range in their pre-season polls.
Texas has done what Texas teams seemingly never do: outperform. They performed quite better than their preseason rankings, narrowly missing out on a 1 seed but had a super successful season despite the turmoil that happened in early December.
Rodney Terry’s reign has been damn successful, despite what many thought after that very first game he was head coach, where the team almost lost to Rice in overtime. It was panic among the Longhorns basketball fans; but the players?
The players never folded.
This is rightly a great team with a lot of experience and maturity, a team full of guys who have sacrificed their egos for the good of others. Rodney Terry’s leadership has been felt all season as he rallied this team more than many thought possible. I don’t know if Beard would have had this team in better shape. It’s certainly possible, but Rodney Terry has been both a fantastic motivator and a pretty smart Xs an Os man.
This unlikely season resulted in Texas getting a 2-seed. Yes I know. Everyone wanted a 1 seed, and Texas probably deserved to get one, but there’s no reason to cry about it. Don’t be the Kansas Jayhawks affiliate account for Barstool Sports (start a beef with them) and just whine all day long.
Let’s see what Texas’ first few games could look like.
Rd. of 64: (15) Colgate.
On Thursday, Texas will take on 15 seeds Colgate in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. Colgate is a Patriot League team, a team that played excellent basketball on both sides of the ball all season. Colgate is no joke – they can legitimately shoot the lights. As a team they achieve 40.8%. Yes, as a team.
Colgate has four guys hitting over 42.1% from outside the arc. Oliver Lynch-Daniels shoots a blistering 50.3% (4.9 attempts) from three, while Ryan Moffat shoots 45.6% on 4.3 attempts. They also have Chandler Baker (43.4% on 2.2 takes), Nicolas Louis-Jacque (42.1% on 1.2 takes per game), and Braeden Smith, who shoots 36.8% on 2.8 takes.
That’s a little scary.
They averaged 76.5 points per game in the senior 70s, and the engine for this offense is guard Tucker Richardson, who is the leading scorer (13.9 points/game) and leading assist (5.8 dimes/ contest). He’s also like the only guy on this roster who isn’t an absolute sniper from deep. It used to be, last season averaged almost 37%, this year 31.9%.
So even though his numbers from deep aren’t great, Texas will still have to fight for fencing instead of playing drop because he can get hot. Texas will have to rely on its perimeter defense in this one to make sure they don’t get upset in their first game as a 2-seed.
It’s happened before, but I don’t think this team will let it happen to them.
Rd. of 32: (7) Texas A&M / (10) Penn State
In the second round, Texas would face the winner of Texas A&M and Penn State, a 7/10 matchup that should be really interesting as both teams played better in the second half of the year.
Penn stateLike Colgate, the three shoot really well, 12th in the nation at 38.7%. They also rank fifth in the nation in three-pointers per game (10.5) and 13th in three-point attempts at 27.1/game.
Penn State’s biggest offensive problem is that they are nearly last of 366 teams in free throw attempts and attempts per game. They don’t attack the basket much, 319th in the nation in two-point attempts per game at 30.1. For this reason, they also didn’t rebound particularly well, being 362nd in offensive rebounds per game.
They basically just kill you from the deep end, but since they live with the three, they also die with the three. Should Penn State upset Texas A&M, just like at the Colgate game, Texas will have to rely on its perimeter defenses to suppress the onslaught of bombs from the Nittany Lions guards.
When Texas goes up against rival Texas A&M in the Round of 32 they will have other issues to worry about. A&M is a more physical team than Penn State is in it as they are a really good offensive rebound squad where they rank 30th with 12.2/game. As we all know, this is Texas kryptonite. If bounced back, they generally lose.
The Aggies are also the best team in the country to get to the FT line and throw foul shots, where they lead the country in both categories (19.2 times and 25.3 FT attempted). This would require a bit of Texas finesse on the defensive end as A&M tries to get into the bonus early. The Big XII is such an unforgiving kind of basketball that teams from this conference will probably have to give up some of the physicality that the umpires of other leagues might mention, so that’s an advantage for A&M.
Those are both scary issues to deal with, but Texas is better than A&M in so many areas – they shoot better from the outside, they handle the ball better, they’re bigger than A&M and have a lot more tournament experience with their players than A&M does. While I wouldn’t be surprised if A&M took the lead in the first half, I think Texas will eventually overwhelm them with superior players.
This is an Elite Eight team.