So much for keeping up with the Joneses, much less being the Joneses.
The Longhorns can’t even see the Joneses from where they reside these days.
The misery continued for Texas athletics Thursday as the underachieving men’s basketball team was eliminated from the Big 12 Championship in a lackluster 66-49 loss to league co-champion Kansas State after a lone win over last-place TCU here.
The Longhorns were crushed by Kansas State — imagine that — to finish their starry-eyed hopes of somehow reaching the NCAA Tournament. Maybe the much-anticipated College Basketball Invitational awaits if those good folks are salivating for a 16-17 team whose play defied explanation and which may define Texas basketball as we now know it.
For the sixth time in seven years, Texas will not reach the Sweet 16.
The once proud bar has been reset very, very low.
And if this is what Texas has truly become, then Rick Barnes had better not invest in soy futures. His job is safe for now. Athletic director DeLoss Dodds said as much the night before and went so far as to commend the job that the 15th-year coach has done this season. Besides, Texas only fires women’s swimming and soccer coaches and occasionally an outstanding track coach if she has an inappropriate relationship with an athlete about a decade ago.
“I think Rick’s done a good job,” Dodds told the Statesman. “He’s got young kids. He’s changed the culture of the program, and in basketball, recruiting is hard to do. He’s an honorable guy.”
Honorable or not, Barnes raised this program to new levels with a Final Four and two other Elite Eights and 15 NBA players, but it’s been a minute. For a coach making $2.5 million, he should deliver so much more. A subpar year like this would be excused, had he done more with the NBA-ready talent he had on hand prior to the last two seasons.
I just don’t know if it’s going to get any better. And neither does Barnes.
“We are who we are,” he said. “We weren’t good enough to make the NCAA Tournament.”
While Bev Kearney’s attorney is grousing about a double standard, Longhorn fans have to sit back and wonder what the new standard for acceptable play is.
There’s no shame in losing to Kansas State. That’s what Texas teams do. Except in volleyball. Texas owns KState in volleyball and banking.
This Wildcats team is a veteran club that thrives on three-pointers (nine Thursday) and tenacious defense (49 Texas points). Remember K-State when you fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.
But Texas played with neither smarts nor urgency and got so little out of Myck Kabongo that it almost seemed the sophomore point guard was auditioning for a comeback to college next season. Fat chance of that. But he has no consistent outside shot and was way too careless with the ball. And if Texas doesn’t land 6-9 recruit Julius Randle, it’s hard to imagine next season being very different from this one.
Barnes has precious few dynamic playmakers, but mostly a collection of role players that can’t beat good to great teams. Sheldon McClellan remains one of the biggest enigmas to ever suit up in a Longhorn uniform and Barnes again benched him for defensive lapses for a big chunk of this game.
Barnes often questioned his team’s low basketball IQ, which comes back to recruiting and coaching.”I don’t like when people say we’re young. I don’t buy that,” Barnes said. “If you ever start making excuses, you can’t win.”
McClellan and Julien Lewis are two very good players, but they’re not special. Evolving into that takes time, and who knows how much Barnes has. Barnes is a good coach, but curious substitution patterns are but one of the criticisms of his style, along with a failure to develop big men and create a solid offense.
Barnes will get a pass on this season, but he is paid too well and has too many resources at his disposal to let his program sink further. When will the erosion end?
The Joneses have noticed. They want their slogan back.