The Longhorns may have done enough to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament with Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma, but a victory at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday would all but assure the Longhorns of a 14th consecutive trip to the Big Dance.
Texas (19-11, 9-8 Big 12) guaranteed at least a .500 record in conference after beating OU 72-64, but the Longhorns would be wise to add to their tournament resume. UT’s best win came against No. 23 Temple on Dec. 17, so it’s been a while since Texas had a signature win.
An upset of the conference champion Jayhawks on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse would be exactly that. Texas sits firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, but that hasn’t discouraged the Longhorns.
“There’s no pressure,” said point guard Myck Kabongo. “We just have to go out there and ball and do what we do best.”
The last time Texas made a trip to KU on Jan. 22, 2011, the Longhorns beat the Jayhawks 74-63 to end Kansas’ school record 69-game win streak at home. KU hasn’t lost a game at Allen Fieldhouse since then and are 15-0 at home this season.
J’Covan Brown scored 23 points in 29 minutes of the bench in that game to lead Texas. The Longhorns are a completely different team this year, however, with Brown and senior forwards Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene being the only holdovers.
Still, Brown is confident the six Texas freshmen will be able to handle one of college basketball’s most raucous crowds.
“We’re going to walk in there together, we’re going to have swag and we’re going to fight and show the world that we can be right there,” said Brown, who leads the Big 12 in scoring.
But the Longhorns will need more than swag to knock off the best the Big 12 has to offer.
It’s the final regular season game for each team and KU will celebrate senior night. The Jayhawks have won 28 straight home finales and will honor Tyshawn Taylor, Conner Teahan and Jordan Juenemann.
Taylor carried KU (25-5, 15-2) down the stretch when the Jayhawks beat Texas 69-66 on Jan. 21 in Austin. He’s one of the top point guards in the country and will challenge Kabongo defensively.
March signals crunch time for a handful of teams on the tournament bubble every year. If the Longhorns want to make it to their 14th straight NCAA tourney, a win on Saturday should get them in.
“If we’re good enough, we’ll be where we need to be,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “March is a great time. This is when you’ve got to want to play. This is the best time of year if you’re a college basketball player.”