After an up-and-down year that saw a young Texas team coalesce as the season progress but come up just short in their attempts for a signature win in Big 12 play, the Longhorns NCAA Tournament hopes come down to their first-round conference tournament game against Iowa State on Thursday.
With a middling RPI and only three wins (all at home) against teams projected to be in the Tournament (Kansas State, Iowa State and Temple), Texas is one of the last four teams out in SB Nation's latest Bracketology update:
Texas (19-12, 9-9 Big 12, RPI: 54, SOS: 31, non-conf. SOS: 22)
Thanks to an uninspiring closing run that featured consecutive losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, close victories over Texas Tech (in overtime) and Oklahoma (thanks to a second half comeback), and Saturday's loss to Kansas, the Longhorns need to win some games in Kansas City to earn a bid.
To have any chance of reaching Rick Barnes 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament in Austin, the Longhorns will have to defeat the Cyclones.
They split the season series with Fred Hoiberg's team: losing 74-71 in Ames on Jan. 4 and winning 62-55 in Austin on Jan. 24. On a neutral court, the key will be keeping Iowa State's star PF Royce White in check. The Cyclones surround White, an excellent passer, with a host of three-point shooters, but they depend on White drawing double teams and kicking it out to them on the perimeter.
However, depending on how Championship Week goes, and how many of the top teams from one-bid leagues are knocked off in the conference tournaments, Texas won't be able to breathe easy on Selection Sunday unless they win two games in Kansas City.
If the Longhorns do get out of the first round, they would likely face Missouri in the semifinals on Friday.