TULSA, Okla. — Every time the video montage is played prior to a Texas home game, someone will either glance over at assistant coach Kenton Paulino and smile or give him a little nudge.
One of the highlights that plays on the Frank Erwin Center screen is Paulino’s game winning buzzer-beater against West Virginia to send Texas to the Elite Eight in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
“I can watch it over and over again,” Paulino said. “I don’t think it will ever get old.”
Junior Alexis Wangmene remembers that moment like it was yesterday.
“That was my favorite tournament memory,” Wangmene said.
Jai Lucas’ favorite tournament memory came in 2004 when his brother John Lucas III hit a 3-pointer in the Elite Eight with six seconds left to beat top-seeded St. Joseph’s in New Jersey.
“That’s a moment I will remember for the rest of my life,” Lucas said.
Every player on the team has his favorite memory from watching when they were younger. Cory Joseph and his entire family would gather around the TV every March and just watch basketball. Matt Hill would always try to find a TV in between classes in junior high and high school. Lucas remembers showing off his baby blue North Carolina t-shirt in the hallways of Bellaire High School after the Tar Heels won the National Championship.
Tristan Thompson’s favorite game was when Virginia Commonwealth upset Duke in the first round of the 2007 tournament because he would always love to see upsets.
“But now that I’m playing in the tournament I don’t want to see the underdog win,” Thompson said.
Staying out of the Pool
The Longhorns have no interest in taking part in a bracket pool. Lucas used to always pick the winner with his friends, but that tradition stopped when he got to college.
The team won’t even watch any of the analysis or predictions made.
“It’s just people’s opinions,” Hill said. “You never know what’s going to happen. Whatever everyone picks usually doesn’t happen anyways.”
Even Thompson, who said he never turns his TV off ESPN, can’t watch it. They do however watch as many of the actual games as they can.
Staying off the Beach
This is the Longhorns’ 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. That also means 13 straight years without a spring break for Rick Barnes’ squads as the opening rounds of NCAA Tournament usually coincide with the week off a school that most students get.
Every year, Hill has to hear from his friends about their trip to Mexico. Sometimes he wishes he could join them, but he is always content with his trip.
“I think I get the better end of the deal,” Hill said.
Lucas noted that the team actually gets two spring breaks including the Big 12 Championship week which they miss most of school from. He’s not complaining.
“I think I’d rather experience this any day,” Lucas said.
Basketball players know what they are getting themselves into when they choose to play in college. Sometimes that means sacrificing a relaxing week at the beach for a chance at a NCAA title.
“This is our fun time,” Wangmene said. “I don’t have any problem with that.”