The Texas Longhorn's have repeatedly come up short in the past five years when Rick Barnes had clubs capable of reaching the Final Four. This year's team is arguably better than both the 2006 and 2008 teams, which fell short of the NCAA Tournament's weekend.
Those teams often went down because the defense couldn't come up with enough stops against superior opponents. This year's squad is the opposite; the defense has showed up against the Longhorns' top opposition, but the offense hasn't always delivered.
Inconsistent point-guard play, as well as a sometimes one-dimensional offense, allows teams like Kansas State to keep Texas off the offensive glass while also creating second opportunities against UT's stout defense. The Wildcats did just that and ended Texas's pursuit of an undefeated season.
The 10 gravest threats to the Longhorns' championship hopes will not only be the top national title contenders, but also some lower ranked squads built to beat Texas.
Baylor can more easily beat Texas than most teams on the list. It's as simple as that. The length of Scott Drew's team combined with a suffocating 2-3 Zone will cause the UT offense fits.
The problem is Baylor likely won't stand a chance to actually play Texas in the tournament. Since both teams hail from the same conference, the earliest they can play each other is the Elite Eight. Chances are both won't make it that far or be put in the same region.
The two teams will meet no matter what in the regular season, so when they do, the strengths of Baylor's zone target the strengths of the Texas offense.
The Bears don't let teams score on them inside the arc and rebound very well despite playing the zone. The Longhorns attack scores many of its points around the basket and off of offensive rebounds.
The one thing the Baylor zone doesn't do well is stop the three-point shot, but Texas hasn't shown they can exploit that this season.
Oh, and one last thing: can't forget about the BU offense, the same offense that ranks 13th in the nation in offensive efficiency.
Yes, the Spartans already went down once to the Longhorns, but in that game, the Spartans didn't stick to their guns. MSU sped up the pace of the game and couldn't run with the bulls.
If the Spartans slow the tempo a bit, they'll be better able to focus on rebounding and forcing Texas to run through its full half-court offense which can struggle at times.
The Spartans could feasibly face the Longhorns as early as the Sweet 16 making this potential re-matchup a definite possibility.
Typically, teams with length and depth in the frontcourt are the squads best suited to take down Texas. However, in Villanova's case, a strong set of guards can do the job as well.
Scottie Reynolds has emerged as a Player of the Year candidate because of his knack to knock down the big shot. Texas might be able to game plan to stop him, but if Rick Barnes does, he'll be at the mercy of Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher who deliver a slash and shoot knockout punch.
Despite Villanova's lack of size, the Wildcats have still managed to rebound well, a critical key in defeating Texas.
Georgia Tech is a bit inept on the offensive end of the floor, but that pitiful attack should be able to compete with Texas because Paul Hewitt has the bodies to throw at Rick Barnes's frontcourt. Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are men among boys just like Dexter Pittman and Damion James.
It's the Yellow Jackets' defense that will allow them to stay in a game against Texas. Georgia Tech breaks down sometimes, but even when they do, the frontline contests every short shot and ranks among the top of the country at allowing two-pointers.
That interior defense is strong enough to stop Texas from getting its gimme baskets in the paint.
Kansas State showed how to beat Texas.
When Texas's guards didn't rotate back on defense, K-State pounced.
When Texas didn't have strong position on the blocks, K-State pounced.
When the Wildcats' shots didn't fall, they exposed Texas defensively and took the ball to the hoop where Dexter Pittman couldn't stop the penetration and Damion James showed he's not a plus-defender.
Kansas State faces the situation as Baylor. Because Frank Martin's team plays in the same league as Texas, the two squads won't meet until at least the Elite Eight.
The biggest complaint about Duke, and the main reason why the Blue Devils haven't been national contenders in several years, is the lack of a dominant big man. Well, Duke doesn't have that again this year, but Mike Krzyzewski still has a stable of big bodies that can compete with Texas.
The Plumlee brothers combined make one dominant big man as usually one is always on the floor. Brian Zoubek is a strong rebounder and a load in the paint.
Duke's length has translated into the nation's top offensive efficiency. It's allowed Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer to face fewer double-teams. Scheyer is already deadly on the offensive end, if Singler can snap out of his shooting slump, that Duke offense will be even better.
Bo Ryan has emerged as one of the best coaches in America at getting the most out of his players. This continued this year as a Wisconsin team, picked to finish in the lower half of the Big 10, might be the third best team in the league.
Wisconsin already stunned Duke earlier this season in front of Wisconsin's Grateful Red. This Badgers team with its hard-nosed defense and fluid offense is a perfect fit to knock off a team like Texas.
UW forces teams to run through 35 seconds of offense and rarely allows its opponents to grab second chances. The offense waits for teams to break down defensively which Texas can sometimes do in the halfcourt.
While the Wildcats are the most talented team in the nation, they aren't the best...yet.
At times the offense still struggles to score in the half-court offense, a problem Texas can exploit. UK also doesn't always play 35 seconds or even 15 or 20 seconds of defense in some cases, but overall there's still a reason Kentucky hasn't lost a game yet.
That reason is John Wall. And Patrick Patterson. And DeMarcus Cousins. And don't forget Eric Bledsoe.
Those four make the most talented quartet in college basketball. When they are gelling, 15-0 runs bury opponents instantly.
Kentucky's frontcourt can give Texas everything it can handle. John Calipari has the depth to continue to throw big bodies on the court and foul UT's pitiful free-throw shooters if necessary.
The last time Texas and Syracuse met in the NCAA Tournament came in 2003 in the Final Four. The Longhorns didn't have the same overwhelming size as they do this year; but that same team didn't have the shooters to expose the Orange's zone defense.
If they were to meet this year, Texas would again struggle to shoot over the zone. Yes, the Orange allow a ton of offensive rebounds, but they give up o-boards on 31 to 37 percent of their opponents misses against almost everybody, no matter how big their opponent is. It's just a fact, Jim Boeheim's players have learned to overcome it this year and have excelled.
The Orange also has a variety of weapons on the offensive end of the floor and can play a variety of different styles of basketball. If needed, the 'Cuse will launch 25 three-pointers, but they can with sharp-shooters Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson.
If needed, the Orange can run. Few teams outlet down the court in transition better than Syracuse.
SU can also score in the paint as Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson can match the size and strength of the Longhorns' frontcourt.
Bill Self might have too much talent and it's causing problems. Then again, that's the same problem Kansas had two years ago when the Jayhawks won the title.
While KU hasn't been playing like the top team in the country, the Jayhawks should eventually figure out their rotation and what works the best on the court.
After all, many people were saying the same about North Carolina last year. Top team entering the season, struggled a bit midseason, but ultimately the talent worked itself out and became the most dominant squad on the hardwood.
This Kansas team has what it takes to beat Texas. Cole Aldrich can score and defend in the paint. Sherron Collins is becoming the most clutch guard in the nation outside the city of Philadelphia. KU has the shooters to score in case the Texas length makes interior scoring difficult.
KU has also been one of the top teams on the defensive end of the floor as Baylor became the first team in 91 games to shoot more than 50 percent against KU Wednesday night.
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