At points during the season, it looked like it might not happen, but the Baby Horns made it to the Big Dance. The streak — 14 consecutive NCAA appearances — is alive. This also marks Texas' 13th consecutive season with 20 wins or more and places them tied for fourth for longest current tournament appearances behind Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State. This is an extraordinary accomplishment. The program and this team have a lot to be proud of.
That said, beating 6-seed Cincinnati will still be a tall order.
The Bearcats went 24-10 overall and 12-6 in the Big East, earning an at-large big and a 6-seed in the tourney. A hard, physical team, Cincy is led by Yancy Gates, who you may know as a 6'9'' senior forward and you definitely know as the guy who threw the sucker punch in the nasty Xavier-Cincy brawl earlier this season. Gates averages 12.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game and is supported by guards Sean Kilpatrick (14.3 ppg and 4.6 rpg) and Cashmere Wright (10.9 ppg and 4.6 apg). Cincinnati seams to be peaking at the right time. They've won nine of their last 12 games, including a victory over Syracuse in the Big East Tournament.
How Texas stacks up, after the jump.
By now, you know the drill with the Longhorns. They're young, they're inexperienced, they make brilliant and bone-headed plays in equal measure, and have been maddeningly unable to finish off a close game. Texas went 20-13 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12, netting them at at-large bid and an 11-seed.
The 'Horns suffered a serious blow when Alexis Wangmene broke his wrist playing against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament. Without the 6'7'' Wangmene, containing Gates will be a challenge. Clint Chapman is the best answer for Gates, but Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond will have to step up and use their fouls wisely.
The key for the Longhorns will be, as always, J'Covan Brown. If he can have a lights-out game — one of his 30-plus points stunners — then it won't matter that Gates is wreaking havoc inside. Brown had high-scoring tournament games last year against Oakland and Arizona. I hope he does the same this year, although I think a lot of brackets probably have the Bearcats moving on. Texas has the edge in free-throw shooting and not punching people, but that's about it.
The game is Friday morning at 11:15 CST and airs on CBS and CBSsports.com. The winner of the game will face either Florida State or St. Bonaventure.