Texas' Blueprint for Deep Run in 2014 NCAA Tournament

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

Texas' Blueprint for Deep Run in 2014 NCAA Tournament

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    The Texas Longhorns were one of seven Big 12 teams to be named to the field of 68 on Selection Sunday.

    Texas ended up in the Midwest region as the No. 7 seed, and it will face No. 10 Arizona State in Milwaukee on Thursday. 

    The Longhorns are in a difficult part of the bracket that also includes No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Duke. 

    Here is a look at the blueprint for the Longhorns to succeed deep into the NCAA tournament. 

Pound the Ball into the Paint

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    The biggest advantage the Longhorns have in any potential matchup in March is their depth and size down low. 

    Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley both average over 10 points and seven rebounds per game, while Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert both possess the ability to step up if Holmes or Ridley face foul trouble. 

    With four capable big men on the roster, the Longhorns should pound the ball inside on every possession to put their opponents into foul trouble as early as possible. 

    Once that happens, Texas will be able to dominate whatever game it plays in. 

Show More Consistency

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    One concern that will arise about the Longhorns is how they ended the regular season and the Big 12 tournament.

    During its last six games, Texas alternated between a win and a loss with a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament semifinals ending its campaign for a high seed in the Big Dance. 

    Texas' end of season form did not hurt its spot in the NCAA tournament because of a stretch that saw it win nine of 10 games in January and February. 

    Usually in March, the hot teams advance into the Final Four, and if that holds true this season, Texas could be in some trouble. 

Javan Felix Must Be at His Best

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    Texas sophomore guard Javan Felix can be one of the best guards in the nation if he plays at his best, but that has not been the case recently.

    Felix has had a brutal past few weeks, as he has reached double figures in points in two of his last seven games. 

    If the Longhorns' opponents are able to crowd the paint and stop the duo of Ridley and Holmes, Felix must be able to rise to the occasion and perform well. 

    Felix certainly has the potential to do that, as he has put up more than 20 points against marquee opposition like Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the regular season. 

Use Battle-Tested Big 12 Mentality as an Advantage

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    Texas played in one of the toughest conferences during the regular season in the Big 12, and that should help it in the Big Dance. 

    Playing against strong teams like Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State and others helped train the Longhorns for how they should approach the NCAA tournament. 

    With five wins against ranked opponents, the Longhorns should have no problem playing in close games deep into the tournament, as they have taken down teams like North Carolina, Kansas and Iowa State already. 

Contain Star Guards

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    The biggest matchup problem the bracket hands the Longhorns is the terrific guards Arizona State and Michigan both contain in Jahii Carson and Nik Stauskas. 

    For Texas to have any chance of making a run into the Sweet 16, it must limit the productivity of both star guards, who, when running on all cylinders, can easily lead their respective teams to victory. 

    The good news for Rick Barnes and company is that Felix and Isaiah Taylor should be up to the task no matter how large it may seem. 

    The road to a national championship won't get easier if Texas gets out of Milwaukee, as No. 3 seed Duke lurks in the other part of the bottom half of the Midwest region. 

NCAA Tournament Forecast

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    Prediction: Loss in third round to No. 2 Michigan

    There is no doubt the Longhorns could challenge Michigan in the third-round game at the Bradley Center, but it will be a big ask of the team to leave the court with a win.

    Michigan is a well-rounded team even with Mitch McGary sidelined for the season, and it has one too many difference-makers on its roster. 

    Holmes and Ridley could find their share of points and rebounds down low, but Texas is at a major disadvantage at the guard position when it matches up with Michigan, which will ultimately be its downfall. 


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