Texas coaches, players, families and staff gathered in the Longhorns’ practice facility on Sunday evening expecting good news: a top seed and the right to host the region’s action in the NCAA Tournament. But following a season of curveballs for the burnt orange, Texas was thrown another on Sunday night.
Instead of hosting a regional and remaining in Austin until a possible trip to the Final Four, Texas will enter the tournament as the No. 6 overall seed, hosting just the first two rounds of the dance at Gregory Gym.
Despite the high seeding, shock and disappointment were evident throughout the room. As the top four teams were shown celebrating on the televisions, the Longhorns sat in silence.
“It was a little shocking for us,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “Some years you get good draws and some years you get tough ones, and this was a tough one.”
Texas closed out the regular season with a perfect record in conference play last week — one of two teams in the country to achieve that feat. The red-hot Longhorns are also riding an 18-game win streak into the postseason.
While there was a sense of disappointment among her teammates regarding the seeding, Texas senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu saw it as another opportunity to play in front of the
“It’s the best feeling,” Ogbogu said. “That’s exciting … just having our fans behind us one or possibly two more times.”
This will be Ogbogu’s last run at an NCAA title, and her first opportunity since her sophomore season. For Ogbogu and the rest of Texas seniors, the final chance at a national title is all the motivation they’ll need.
“It just adds more fire to the fuel,” Ogbogu said. “Now it’s go time.”
Upon the selection show’s conclusion, Elliott took his players into the locker room to talk about Texas’ draw, looking to keep their focus on their first tournament match. With a squad heavy in Final Four experience, Texas knows a thing or two about winning when it matters. A possible regional match on the road won’t faze the burnt orange.
“Champions are made by how well they deal with adversity,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to bite our lip, keep moving forward and take care of the teams in front of us.”
Sitting as the No. 6 overall seed in a bracket of 64 is no small feat. The Longhorns have amassed an impressive arsenal of victories in 2017, including wins against ranked teams Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas. With those victories in tow, Texas is primed for another postseason run.
“This is the time to start peaking and getting better,” Ogbogu said. “Coming away from (each match), we’ve learned so much about ourselves and we’re ready to just get back (on the court).”
Regardless of its resume, Texas can’t overlook the first two rounds of tournament play, especially with a sense of uncertainty floating around each potential opponent. A sub-24 hour turnaround time between opponents awaits the Longhorns this weekend.
“I know nothing about Fairfield,” Elliott said. “I know they’ve been here once before, but that’s it.”
The No. 6 Longhorns (24–2, 18–0 Big 12) will play in the NCAA Tournament against Fairfield (25–6, 18–0 MAAC) on Dec. 1. First serve from Gregory Gym is slated for 7 p.m.