After a one-year hiatus, Texas heard its name called Sunday evening for a bid in the NCAA Tournament.
The Longhorns, who missed the tournament last season for the first time in the Rick Barnes era, grabbed the No. 7 seed in the Midwest region of the tournament. They are set to face No. 10-seed Arizona State on Thursday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis. If they advance, the Longhorns will then play the winner of the game between Michigan and Wofford, who are also set to play Thursday.
“It’s absolutely great to see our name back on the bracket,” Barnes said. “That’s why we do this, to have a chance to be a part of this tournament. These guys should enjoy it because they’ve earned it. I know they are excited about it.”
Texas finished its season with an overall 23-10 mark and an 11-7 record in Big 12 play, finishing third in the league. The Longhorns, who have earned a bid to the Big Dance in 23 of the last 26 years, sport a 34-33 record in its previous 30 trips to the NCAA Tournament. winning 16 of its 22 opening games.
Texas has yet to see Arizona State (21-11, 10-8 Pac-12) this season, but the two schools did collide administratively last fall when Texas poached Steve Patterson from his position at Arizona State to become the new men’s head athletic director of the Longhorns. Sun Devils head coach Herb Sendek also served as an assistant coach to Barnes when the latter was the head coach at Providence University.
When the season started, fans had little confidence that Texas would become an NCAA Tournament team, dismissing them as a young, inexperienced team.
“Before the season started, we knew we had a group of guys that were in it together,” Barnes said. “We knew, as a coaching staff, that when we played Mercer, they were a good team. I told them tonight that this is really just the beginning for them, if they really want to do something special.”