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Longhorns to face Bearcats in first round of NCAA tournament

The Longhorns got their ticket to the big dance as a No. 11 seed. What chances do the Longhorns have to advance in the tournament? Head inside for the details.
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns maintained their streak of NCAA Tournament bids Sunday with the program’s 14th consecutive selection to the Big Dance. With tournament play set to begin on March 14, the no. 11 seed Longhorns will square off against the no. 6 seed Cincinnati Bearcats on March 16 in Nashville, Tenn. in the East Region.

Kentucky, the top seed overall, is joined by Syracuse, North Carolina and Michigan State as the tournaments four no. 1 selections. Big 12 representatives Missouri and Kansas occupy no. 2 seeds in the West and Midwest Regions respectfully and potentially could meet in the Final Four in New Orleans, La. on March 31.

The Horns were heavily marked as a bubble team going into the Big 12 Tournament last week, needing an impressive showing at the least to make it over the hump. With a comeback win in the quarterfinals over Iowa State, Texas dropped its semifinal match to Missouri. Although it was the Longhorns’ third loss to the Tigers this season, J’Covan Brown and company managed to secure their place among the field of 68 teams vying for college basketball’s most esteemed prize.

Texas should have its hands full against a veteran Cincinnati squad headlined by Sean Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon, Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright. And with a still-ailing frontcourt, the Longhorns will be looking to the junior guard Brown to carry the offensive load throughout the tournament.

It is a common belief that good guard play can shoulder the strain of the NCAA Tournament for any one team. But although the Longhorns can have that in masses between Brown and a throng of freshmen in Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan, the lack of a dominant force in the paint to set defensive tempo may be Texas’ undoing.

The Longhorns have not advanced past the second round since the 2007-2008 season when D.J. Augustin, A.J. Abrams and Damion James led Texas to an Elite Eight appearance. That same team also featured then-freshmen Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene, both of whom are in their final seasons in burnt orange.

Should the Longhorns find themselves on the happier end of their Friday opener, the road ahead will only get bumpier with the victory drawing the winner of No. 3 seed Florida State and No. 14 seed St. Bonaventure. And if the Horns are destined for another Elite Eight berth, they will have to find their way past a very talented second seed in Ohio State.

The East Region

No. 1 Syracuse
No. 2 Ohio State
No. 3 Florida State
No. 4 Wisconsin
No. 5 Vanderbilt
No. 6 Cincinnati
No. 7 Gonzaga
No. 8 Kansas State
No. 9 Southern Miss
No. 10 West Virginia
No. 11 Texas
No. 12 Harvard
No. 13 Montana
No. 14 St. Bonaventure
No. 15 Loyola-Maryland
No. 16 UNC-Asheville

Other notable seeds around the bracket are No. 3 Baylor in the South Region, No. 8 Iowa State in the South Region, No.2 Missouri in the West Region and No. 2 Kansas in the Midwest Region.

Previewing Texas’ Chances

Let’s be real honest with ourselves. The Longhorns, for all intents and purposes, barely scraped by to get into the Big Dance. If it were not for a thrilling, comeback win over the Cyclones in the Big 12 Tournament, Texas very well could have been looking at the NIT instead of the NCAA. But guard play has always been the author in Cinderella stories, and J’Covan Brown is nothing short of a special player.

For what seems to be the mantra for this year’s team, the Longhorns may just be too young. Six freshmen load the roster with inexperience, but with a “nothing-to-lose-attitude,” Texas may be a dangerous team to play if the Horns can get hot from deep.

A close win—or a loss for that matter—against Cincinnati should not come as a surprise, but anything more than a second round triumph that can be viewed as a success for a very young Rick Barnes team. And unless some wild things happen to ease the Longhorns’ chances at making it beyond the third round and into the Sweet 16, all signs may point to a one-and-done stay for Texas.

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