Hornography: Patience Is Key
Monday afternoon, Coach Shaka Smart quickly – and accurately – informed ESPN college basketball analyst/host Andy Katz that "we're a long way from being all the way there." The No. 6 seed Horns are battle-tested and have veteran point guards, but don't necessarily fit the profile of NCAA Final Four contenders (at least not yet): deep bench, top-end talent, efficient guard play, consistent three-point shooting. Even in a year of overwhelming parity – with the possible exception of Big 12 champion Kansas – Texas will have a tough row to hoe.
If Texas is to have any (remote) shot at the Final Four, they will need their best front court player. Cameron Ridley is expected to play 15-20 minutes on Friday, which is huge – and will pay immediate dividends against (22-12, 11-7 Missouri Valley Conference) No. 11-seeded Northern Iowa's smallish front line. Though favored by most, there is a handful calling for a potential upset, mostly to due to the Panthers' expected why-not-us mentality.
A-game to A-game, the Longhorns should absolutely wash the Wes Washpun-led squad. NCAA tournament games – especially in the first round – are rarely straightforward affairs. But if they can dispatch UNI in Oklahoma City, No. 3 seed Texas A&M is likely next – a revival of a natural rivalry.
Lady Horns Ready to Go
Resting in the Bridgeport Region, opposite No. 1 overall seed Connecticut, would cause most teams tremendous heartache. However, the Horns have the players and the path to contend, as well as the chance to do it somewhat under the radar.
If they do manage to survive until meeting the clear national championship contender, All-American center Imani Boyette provides the shot-blocking force – one of Connecticut's exceedingly few weaknesses – to bother the Huskies front line and their dribble drives.
Before any sort of chance at the (forever) reigning champs, Texas must stay focused through Saturday, in what should frankly be a walkover, against No. 15 seed Alabama State (19-11, 14-4 SWAC).