It’s not just that Longhorns lost, it’s how they lost

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Texas owns the Big 12. Well, next year’s Big 12.

The No. 5 Longhorns were stunned by Colorado 91-89 on Saturday for just their second conference loss this season. They’d been crushing the league thanks to a stifling defense and a reliable offense, but have now lost two of their last three Big 12 games (and been average on defense).

The odd thing? The losses were to middle-of-the-road league teams Colorado and Nebraska, neither of which will be around next season. The losses are surprising purely on name value – Texas has been a Top 5 team during both and was touted as perhaps the nation’s best team just a few weeks ago – but how the Longhorns lost on Saturday was even more baffling.

Consider: Texas led by as many as 22 in the first half, by 15 at halftime and scored a season-high 48 points in that half. Not bad.

But Colorado’s 29-10 run gave it a lead midway through the second half, which grew to double-digits at one point before the ‘Horns made it close. The Buffs scored nearly 1.4 points per possession during the second half. For context, it was nearly twice as efficient as Big 12 teams usually are against Texas.

That’s hardly a two-game stretch worthy of a team vying to be a No. 1 seed. At 24-5 overall and 12-2 in the Big 12, expect the Longhorns to be stationed as a No. 2 seed for the Big Dance unless it wins the Big 12 tournament and has another contender (Ohio State, Pitt, Kansas, Duke, BYU) falter along the way.

Still. How about some additional context for those ready to write off the Longhorns?

Both the Nebraska and Colorado losses were on the road and by a combined five points. Both were losses that could’ve been blowouts, but remained close because UT didn’t collapse. That’s promising when it comes to an NCAA tournament environment.

Also, they still feature the nation’s most efficient defense – by a fair margin – and if Jordan Hamilton ever snaps out of his shooting funk (21 of 67 in last four games), the offense will be significantly more difficult to handle.

Texas remains formidable. But it’s looking like any Final Four runs might have to come as a No. 2 seed.

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