The Texas Longhorns have not advanced past the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in nine years, yet interim head coach Rodney Terry has the team squarely in the national championship conversation with the tournament just over two weeks away.
Several experts have listed the Longhorns as one of the few teams that can take home the title.
Texas (22-8, 11-6 in the Big 12), currently ranked No.9 in the country, is about to finish the season in second place in the Big 12 and projects as a No.2 seed in the NCAA tournament, according to national experts.
Texas entered the 2022-23 season ranked 12th in the initial AP Top 25 and collected three top-10 wins during a 7-0 start. The Longhorns went 12-2 in the nonconference portion of their schedule, with their only losses coming against then-No.17 Illinois in overtime in New York and against then-No.4 Tennessee on the road.
The Longhorns are 7-6 against ranked teams this year and have beaten four Big 12 teams that are currently ranked.
Despite back-to-back losses to No.7 Baylor and No.22 TCU, Terry still believes his team has what it takes to contend.
“That’s a good team on their home court,” Terry said of the Horned Frogs during his postgame press conference on Wednesday. “We haven’t played a team that isn’t very good. This team is a good team. They’re well-coached, and we knew we were going to get their best game.”
“We get all teams’ best games because the league is that good.”
“This league’s been really, really good,” he later added. “It’s really competitive. There’s a lot of parity … You’re scratching and clawing for every call.”
The Big 12 has been considered the country’s best conference this season. All 10 of the conference’s schools rank in the top 53 in KenPom and the top 68 in NET, two of the key ratings for the NCAA tournament field.
Texas is 10th in both categories and is one of only three teams with at least 10 “Quadrant One Wins” (home games against the top 30, neutral site games against the top 50, and away games against the top 75).
While the Longhorns would have liked to add a conference championship, that was not the ultimate goal. There is still more to play for beyond conference play and the regular season.
“We’re still playing for something,” Terry said Wednesday night. “We were playing for a Big 12 championship tonight — to still be in a position to try to win a Big 12 Championship at home.”
“You’re playing for seeding now,” he added. “You play to put yourself in the best position right now for the big prize, and I think we have as good a team in the country that has a chance to win a national championship. So, you’re playing for the NCAA resume right now, and that’s what March is about.”
“March is about finishing possessions and finishing games. There’s a lot to play for. There’s a lot more basketball to be played.”