March Madness: Texas Longhorns More Dangerous as a Lower Seed Team?

Dino NicandrosAnalyst IMarch 3, 2010

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 21:  Gary Johnson #1, Justin Mason #24 and Clint Chapman #53 of the Texas Longhorns sit dejected in the final seconds of their 74-69 loss to the Duke Blue Devils during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 21, 2009 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If I were to tell you that a certain basketball team possessed a 17-0 record through the month of January and had arguably the best collection of talent in the nation, what would your prediction for said team be?

A Final Four appearance? A National Championship, perhaps?

Over the last month we have witnessed the astonishing collapse of a team that was once undefeated and ranked first in the nation, much like the team mentioned above.

Senior Damion James was considered to be a prime POY candidate.

Dexter Pittman was tagged as one of the most imposing big men in the country.

The Texas Longhorns' fall from grace has been rapid and rather troubling, especially considering how deep with talent this team is.

Over the last 13 games, Texas has run off a mediocre 6-7 record amidst inconsistent guard play and some crucial injuries.

This is the same Texas team that handed it to North Carolina in Dallas in early December and out-muscled Michigan State just days later.

This is the same Texas team that looked like the class of the Big 12 and the ultimate threat to Jayhawk supremacy.

A string of ugly defeats, including a not-so-close 80-68 loss to Kansas at home, has quickly dropped Texas from No. 1 to No. 25 in the coaches poll (unranked in the AP Poll).

Gone is the swagger and confidence that once made this team virtually unbeatable.

For all of Texas' struggles on the court, the real problem lies in the Longhorns' mentality.

There is no question that this team can play at a high level—they proved that over the first 17 games of the season.

If there were some way to restore the missing confidence in the Texas players, this team could be incredibly dangerous in March.

As it stands now, Texas will get no better than a five or six seed in the Big Dance, unless of course they can win the Big 12 tournament next weekend.

Based on preseason hype and the early season success, a lower seed would be deemed a failure for this squad, and in a way it is.  But I don't believe a lower seeding is necessarily a bad thing for an emotionally-reeling Texas team.

First of all, Rick Barnes doesn't have to worry about the inevitable complacency that comes with a team being a top seed.  Having no target on their backs can only help relieve some of the pressure the Longhorns are facing at the moment.

Secondly, Texas can play the old "no one respects us" card, a mindset that could only improve team morale and determination. 

Let's face it.  While Texas will always be Texas in terms of prestige, this team isn't nearly as intimidating as it once was.

Thirdly, a big upset win over one of the top seeds early in the tournament could really get this team going.  The Longhorns don't have much to lose at this point, giving them the opportunity to go out with all guns blazing against a top tier team.

Last of all, don't underestimate the will of Damion James.  The senior forward has been the heart and soul of this Texas team all season long.  Don't expect him to bow out of his college career on a sour note.

If Rick Barnes can get his team to buy in to the idea that they are still the team they were at the beginning of the year, the Longhorns could make a deep run in the tournament.

A lot can change in the next two weeks, which is why you should keep an eye on Texas.  What the Longhorns do in their conference tournament will provide some clues as to how much noise this group can make come Tourney time.