Key Games: vs. Georgetown, vs. UCLA, vs. UNC, at Michigan State
As good as Illinois looked in Maui, Texas looked every bit as bad.
First, the Longhorns lost by 13 to Division II Chaminade, the longtime tournament host. The next day, they were only marginally better, losing by six to a USC team that went 6-26 (and 1-17 in the Pac 12) a year ago. A win over a depleted Mississippi State the following day merely kept things from getting even worse.
Luckily for Rick Barnes’ team, there are numerous opportunities to dig out of the hole they created for themselves last week. The first will be next week at Madison Square Garden, against No. 20 Georgetown. The Hoyas looked very good in their last trip to New York, beating UCLA and almost knocking off No. 1 Indiana.
Speaking of UCLA, the Bruins are Texas’ second crack at getting back on track. For the Horns, that one will be played much closer to home, in Houston. With the Bruins in some shambles themselves after an inexplicable home loss to Cal Poly, both teams will hungry for a salvaging win against a name opponent.
Later in December, Texas gets North Carolina, in Austin. Like UCLA, UNC is still trying to find its way with an extremely young team. The Longhorns should be fine with a split against those two teams, but winning both is still a possibility.
The final test of December for Texas will be at Michigan State. The Spartans have been yet another inconsistent team thus far, defeating Kansas while losing to Connecticut and Miami—not to mention barely beating Boise State and Louisiana-Lafayette at home. It’s never easy to steal a game in East Lansing, but if there’s a time to do it, Dec. 22 might just be a good a time as any.
After its rough start, Texas should be quite thankful to have these four games on its horizon. Whether Myck Kabongo is cleared to return remains a huge question and will certainly play a huge role in how Texas fares in these contests.
If he does return, winning two or three of these games seems realistic. Even if he continues to sit, a split is still very possible, given the struggles of some of these teams.