Texas wonders into uncharted territory going to home stretch with virtually no chance of reaching NCAA tournament

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Guard Sheldon McClellan attempts to score against Kansas State. Texas is 12-15 and faces TCU Wednesday.  

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

With four regular-season games left, Texas has a 12-15 record and no chance of earning an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The Longhorns would have to win the Big 12 tournament next month to go to the Big Dance. That would require three wins in three days in Kansas City, a tall order for a team that’s won just four times in the last two months.

“We have four games left. We can’t not keep trying to get better,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “I don’t think we’re done. I won’t think we are done until the conference tournament is over. I truly believe we have a group that thinks they can do it. But thinking it and doing it are two different things.”

Texas hosts Oklahoma on Wednesday night, looking to extend its home winning streak against the Sooners to eight. The Longhorns fell to Oklahoma, 73-67, on Jan. 21, their first loss to the Sooners in three years.

They will have Cameron Ridley back after the freshman missed Saturday’s loss to Kansas State with a right eye injury. Sophomore guard Julien Lewis will miss Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma because of a concussion. Lewis, the team’s second-leading scorer, played just nine minutes Saturday.

Even with all of its scholarship players being freshmen and sophomores, Texas came into this season with high hopes. Missing the NCAA tournament for the first time under Barnes was certainly not part of the plan.

“I think that any time you have expectations, you’re going to be disappointed,” Barnes said. “When you have big expectations, you’re going to be really disappointed … It’s a reoccurring thing where we didn’t finish over a 40-minute period consistently. We’re better than we were but we’re still not where we need to be.”

In the four games since returning from a 23-game suspension, sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo has averaged 15.5 points in 37 minutes per game, both team-highs. Kabongo scored a career-high 24 points this past weekend, but it wasn’t enough for Texas, who fell to Kansas State, 81-69.

“I think he’s trying hard,” Barnes said. “I think when he sees things not going the way we want them to, he feels a responsibility to make something happen. That’s where he’s gotta stay patient. Think about it. He’s a sophomore that’s played three or four games. He needs some game time too. He needs game experience as much as anybody.”

Three of Texas’ four remaining regular season opponents, including Oklahoma, have already beaten the Longhorns this year. So unless the Longhorns improve rapidly, Texas may not end the season with many more than the 12 wins it already has.

Published on February 27, 2013 as "Hopes of Big Dance gones, Horns try to play better".