Playing Through

The Texas men's basketball team is making a believer out of this doubting Thomas

D.J. Augustin
D.J. Augustin

Every morning, I get an e-mail from the Associated Press listing its top sports stories of the day. Monday, after the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the AP featured stories about little Davidson College bumping off mighty Georgetown, about Tennessee surviving a scare from Butler, about Memphis dispatching Mississippi State, and about the University of North Carolina cruising past Arkansas. Also of note were two Serbs winning some tennis tournament, Tiger Woods not winning some golf tournament, and Golden State winning some NBA game.

I figured that it was me, that surely the AP had listed the Longhorns advancing to the Sweet 16, and I just wasn't seeing the headline. But no. The story wasn't there. It was the same deal on the front page of The New York Times' Sports section. Nothing. Nary a mention.

What gives? Where's the love?

I should say that I'm in no position to complain. I've doubted the Longhorns all season. They were tough on defense, balanced on offense. A well-coached team that got the most of its talent, taking down the likes of Tennessee, Kansas, and UCLA. Yet they lacked that je ne sais quoi that great teams are supposed to have, I thought. I kept looking for a bright shining star, a Michael Jordan, and he wasn't there. Instead, he was in the NBA, playing for the Seattle SuperSonics.

Throughout the season, we've all been dismissive of the idea that the Longhorns could actually be better without Kevin Durant. But now we know that they are. Anyway, they're at least one game better. A year ago, they were shown the door in the second round of the tournament. This year, they're still dancing. That will make it the fifth time in seven seasons that Texas has advanced to the third round of the tournament.

Maybe that explains the indifference: Everyone expects UT to get this far, but nobody figures they'll win it all.

Nobody except perhaps University of Miami coach Frank Haith. "Texas is a great team – one of the Top 5 teams in the country," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they win the national championship."

You expect Haith would say this, of course. For three seasons, he'd been an assistant at UT. And the Longhorns had just sent his Hurricanes packing. The 75-72 score of that game makes it seem closer than it really was. With A.J. Abrams once again on fire, turning in another 26-point game; Damion James ripping down 16 rebounds; and All-American D.J. Augustin in command of the court, they took a look at their 17-point second-half lead and naturally got a bit ahead of themselves.

Can you blame them? Win three games, and they're playing for a championship. If they can get by Stanford on Friday – and they should – they'll likely face Memphis, a team that can't make a free throw. And after that, they'd face ...

Okay, now I'm starting to get ahead of myself. It's taken me awhile, but I'm starting to believe.

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Michael Jordan, Texas Longhorns, Kevin Durant, A.J. Abrams, D.J. Augustin

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