Despite all the trials and tribulations of Texas’ 2018-19 season, self-inflicted or otherwise, the Longhorns entered Saturday’s senior day with an opportunity to, at the very least, feel a lot better about its chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
The same was true for Jamie Dixon’s TCU Horned Frogs team. The only difference is the Horned Frogs, from top to bottom, put together the performance needed to have confidence heading into the rest of March. TCU topped Texas 69-56 behind Desmond Bane’s 34 points.
Texas held an early lead and the Longhorn offense looked like it had a repeatable strategy centered around Matt Coleman’s ability to dribble drive. Coleman added several midrange shots early and had 7 points over the first few minutes, part of an early four-point lead for Texas.
Then, TCU turned it loose. The Horned Frogs went on an 8-0 run with under four minutes remaining in the half. Dixon’s team, due to transfer and injury, had become just seven deep over the previous few weeks. Those seven players out-worked the Longhorns in transition, shot a blistering 54 percent from the field and 53 percent from three, and out-rebounded the Longhorns 35-24
Essentially, TCU ran Texas off its own court on senior day.
“Never been so disappointed as I am right now,” was how Texas head coach Shaka Smart opened his press conference.
“This isn’t who we prepared to be,” he would continue. “This isn’t how we practiced the last three days. I think there was some tentativeness for whatever reason in our guys.”
Bane was great in the first half, but his game took off in the second half. With no other teammates in double-digits, Bane poured it on for TCU. He was 14-of-20 from the field and 6-of-8 from behind the arc.
In comparison, Texas shot 37 percent from the field and 21 percent from behind the arc, a performance that falls in line with many of the Longhorns’ defeats this year.
“He got going in transition early,” Dixon said of Bane. “That was the key, and that really was our emphasis this last week.”
Bane was the only Horned Frog in double figures with his 34, but every Horned Frog added at least four points. Jaxson Hayes led all Longhorns with 19 points, while Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey broke double figures with 12- and 11- point performances.
Transition led to a lot of success for TCU. The Horned Frogs out-rebounded the Longhorns due in large part to Texas’ 37 missed shots.
The contest that was up for grabs prior to the 11 a.m. tip was huge for both teams. A win for Texas would have put the Longhorns at 9-9 in conference, likely enough to merit a tournament bid due to the quality of the Big 12 and the dearth of bubble teams.
In the end, TCU notched it’s 19th win of the season. Despite it’s 7-11 conference record, it likely puts itself in a position to be in the field of 68.
For Texas, the picture is incredibly murky. The selection committee would likely frown at a .500 record despite wins over several top 15 opponents.
The Big 12 Tournament looms large. The likely first opponent is Kansas, a team with something to prove after its streak of regular season conference titles came to an end in 2019.
As a result of this game, the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament is about as close to a must-win for Texas as it has had this year. Before they get there, Smart was asked if his team is NCAA Tournament quality.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’re going to find out in Kansas City. We obviously have to play a lot better than we played today.”