Rick Barnes has led his Longhorns to a No. 1 ranking, a conference championship and the Final Four. In all of his time with The University of Texas, his team has never missed the NCAA tournament.
The Longhorns have made 13 straight tournament appearances, tied for the fourth longest streak in the country.
But that streak may be in jeopardy this year.
With their recent loss to Iowa State to open conference play, Texas stands at 10-4 and has very few quality wins.
To date, the best teams the Longhorns have beaten have been UCLA on the road, a team that doesn’t look like it is tournament worthy, and Temple, a respectable victory that looks a little better after the Owls recently upset No. 3 Duke.
But still, according to teamrankings.com, the Longhorns have only the 78th best RPI in the country.
This is poor according to any standard, and before the Iowa State game, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected the Longhorns as the No. 11 seed and just barely being one of the last four to make the field of 68.
After that loss, the Longhorns are probably currently on the outside of the tournament bubble looking in.
Barnes has undoubtedly felt the effects of his three of his best players from last year (Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph) leaving to go play in the NBA.
Their departure left Barnes with a very young, inexperienced team that has six freshmen on it and only two seniors.
The leading scorer, best player and leader of the team is J’Covan Brown, an above-average player who is averaging 19.3 points a game, but he is not a superstar that can take over a game and will his team to victory.
Brown needs a lot of help and needs it quickly.
Texas certainly has the talent in place to make a run, with the freshmen trio of Sheldon McClellan, Myck Kabongo and Jonathan Holmes all continuing to mature as the season blossoms.
The good news is that conference play has just begun, and the Longhorns will have plenty of opportunities to beat good, ranked teams to boost their tournament resume.
In fact, Texas still plays two games each against No. 4 Baylor, No. 7 Missouri, No. 15 Kansas and No. 23 Kansas State.
If the Longhorns can pull a few upsets and win the games against the other conference teams which they will be favored against, they will have a good enough profile to make the tournament.
But this young team needs to grow up and start acting upon what it is learning quickly, otherwise the Longhorns may find themselves in an unfamiliar place come March.
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