Assessing the state of the state in Texas basketball


Highlights

Lone Star teams might only earn three or four bids in NCAA Tournaent.

Baylor and SMU are the only sure things, but others are hopeful.

Planting The Seeds forecasts the entire NCAA Tournament field of 68.

The beauty of college basketball is that no matter how ugly a season your favorite team has had, it is tossed one last life preserver in the month of March.

A lot of Texas teams will try to grab hold. Less than two weeks out from Selection Sunday, only four state teams — Baylor, SMU, UT-Arlington and Texas Southern — are in line to make the NCAA Tournament field, according to Planting The Seeds, the American-Statesman’s weekly projection.

Houston, TCU and Texas Tech have a lot of work to do with the clock ticking, and the other 16 NCAA Division I programs in the state are the longest of long shots.

For most, the only hope is to win the conference tournament. The lower- and mid-major tournaments begin this week while most of the big boys tip off next week, and all 32 champions earn their NCAA credentials. Of 347 Division I programs, about 300 still have a chance, in theory at least, to win the national championship. Or at least punch a ticket to The Dance.

Even Texas. Four wins in four days next week in Kansas City, Mo., salvages a dreadful season for the Longhorns (10-19, 4-12 Big 12). Right now the computers at teamrankings.com put that chance at 0.3 percent. The reality is that no team seeded fifth or lower has ever won the Big 12 Tournament.

OK, so maybe not Texas. What about Texas A&M? The Aggies (15-13, 7-9 SEC), a Sweet 16 team a year ago, simply failed to fire in league play this season, but four wins in four days next week in Nashville would wipe that away. A&M, a projected eighth to 10th seed, is given a 0.9 percent shot of topping the SEC field, according to teamrankings.com.

The Aggies, who lost to Kentucky in overtime in last year’s SEC title game, can look to the 2007-08 Georgia Bulldogs for inspiration. The Bulldogs tied for last in the league then won the SEC Tournament. It can be done, and A&M has some premier talents in center Tyler Davis and power forward Robert Williams.

Baylor and SMU don’t need any miracles.

The 11th-ranked Bears (23-6, 10-6), with 12 wins over the RPI top 50, own the portfolio of a No. 2 or No. 3 NCAA seed, depending on whether they beat West Virginia on Monday night.

The 14th-ranked Mustangs (25-4, 15-1) are a rising No. 5 seed. They carry a one-game lead on Cincinnati with two to play in the American Athletic Conference. The league’s tournament is in Hartford, Conn.

UT-Arlington (22-6, 12-3 Sun Belt) and Texas Southern (17-11, 13-2 SWAC) need to win their conference tournaments, although the Mavericks merit an at-large look with a 34 RPI. UTA is a projected 12 seed; TSU is a 16th seed.

Texas State (16-11, 9-6 Sun Belt) has improved and owns a win over UTA.

Houston (19-8, 10-5), third in the American Athletic Conference, is in the at-large conversation, one of our “first four teams out.”

TCU (17-12, 6-10) and Texas Tech (17-12, 5-11) are drifting badly.

Now, three state teams to keep an eye on during the conference tournaments:

  • A&M-Corpus Christi (18-9, 11-5 Southland) was 9-9 before rattling off nine wins in a row.
  • UTEP (13-15, 11-5 C-USA) endured a 12-game losing streak but grew healthy, jelled and won eight of nine, including five in a row.
  • Rice (20-9, 10-6 C-USA) has taken seven of eight to raise its profile.



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