NCAA Bracket 2011: 5 Reasons Why the Texas Longhorns Are Built for a Long Run
March Madness generally lives up to the latter half of its name.
The month is filled with chaos on the hardwood, with upsets abounding, buzzer beaters plentiful and star players numerous, the Big Dance is one of the most exciting events of the sporting year.
But despite the chaos, a winner must emerge in the end.
This year, the winner could very well be the Texas Longhorns.
The team in burnt orange is made for a deep run in the tournament and it shouldn't come as a surprise if the fourth-seeded Longhorns cut down the nets.
Texas has five certain characteristics that will make the team a serious threat throughout the tournament.
Elite Conference Record
The past four NCAA tournament winners have compiled conference records of 13-3 (Duke), 13-3 (North Carolina), 14-2 (Kansas) and 13-3 (Florida).
Texas has, unsurprisingly, racked up 13 Big 12 wins this season, while only dropping three contests.
The Longhorns dropped one game to Kansas and were defeated narrowly by both Kansas State and Colorado.
A loss to the top-seeded Kansas is nothing to be ashamed of—and Texas can still say that they beat Kansas first. Kansas State, on the other hand, is a tournament team and the loss to Colorado was a bit of a fluke.
Even with those three blemishes, Texas had an elite conference record and, as recent champions have demonstrated, such an impressive conference record is an accurate harbinger for March success.
At 40.5 rebounds per game, Texas grabs the fifth-most rebounds in the nation. This statistic will go a long way in making a deep tournament run.
Of the past four champions, only North Carolina in 2009 was out-rebounded in the Finals, in a dominant 89-72 victory over Michigan State.
Duke, last year, was ranked 26th in the nation in rebounding, North Carolina ranked second in their year, Kansas ranked 21st in 2008 and Florida ranked in the top 50 in 2007.
An old basketball proverb states, "defense wins games, rebounding wins championships."
The Texas Longhorns have title aspirations, and these hopes have a great chance of being fulfilled due to their prowess on the boards.
Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Billy Donovan, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Gary Williams and Tom Izzo are all household names.
These coaches, who have combined to win the NCAA title in every year this millennium, are experienced and proven. So too is Rick Barnes.
Barnes has been coaching the Texas Longhorns since 1998 and has led them to one Final Four, two Elite Eights and two Sweet 16s. He has been in the head coaching business since 1987 and he is bound to bring a championship to Austin.
Also on Barnes' résumé are three Big 12 Coach of the Year trophies, but his name remains out of the history books on the grandest scale.
He has coached this year's Longhorns incredibly well, meshed young players together smoothly and won some close games, including a two-point victory over North Carolina and an overtime victory over Illinois.
If an NCAA tournament game comes down to the wire, the Longhorns will come out on top, largely due to their great head coach.
Diverse Styles of Play
Within the Texas roster, there are many players who have very different styles of play.
Jordan Hamilton is a slashing scorer capable of lighting it up from downtown.
Tristan Thompson is a versatile wing who can guard every position.
Gary Johnson is an undersized bruiser who brings intensity every time he steps on the court.
Cory Joseph and J'Covan Brown are very talented guards, and Dogus Balbay is an elite defender and leader.
Despite the different styles of play of each of these players, the Longhorns have meshed seamlessly this season. With such a great amount of diversity, opposing teams can't focus too much on one single player.
If opponents try to shut down Hamilton, the bigs will make them pay. If they give Texas the perimeter, Hamilton, Joseph and Brown will knock down a multitude of threes.
Against Texas, teams have to pick their poison, and rarely do they end up with the victory. The Longhorns have proven that their assorted attack can and will win games.
Effective Mixture of Youth and Experience
Texas is led by an assorted group of freshmen, sophomores and seniors.
Top scorer Jordan Hamilton is in his second year of play, as is J'Covan Brown.
The Longhorns are deep with freshman talent, including Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph.
When the underclassmen get overwhelmed with a new situation, Texas has experience to make up for it. Dogus Balbay, Gary Johnson and even Jai Lucas can guide their younger teammates if assistance is needed.
Nowadays, in college basketball, staying for three or four years is anomalous and the young guns on Texas could be leaving for the NBA early. They will be hungry to win now, as will the seniors.
Of the three contributing seniors, only Johnson has advanced past the second round. The trio will be hungry to win a title, because unlike the underclassmen, they don't have the chance to return for another year.
The Longhorns will certainly be hungry to win, and this combination of youth and experience might just lead Texas to the promised land.
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