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The case for Texas

Losing Big 12 record shouldn't eliminate Longhorns

Posted: Friday March 7, 2008 5:34PM; Updated: Friday March 7, 2008 6:38PM
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Gail Goestenkors took her team to four Final Four games while the coach at Duke.  In her first year at Texas, her team sits on the tournament bubble.
Gail Goestenkors took her team to four Final Four games while the coach at Duke. In her first year at Texas, her team sits on the tournament bubble.
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With her team on the verge of a four-game losing streak, Texas coach Gail Goestenkors had her Longhorns make a decision.

"We got into that huddle, and I sort of lost my mind and said, 'If you want to go home and watch everyone else on TV during the NCAA tournament, that's the way you're playing right now. If you want to change things, and you want a shot, you've got to go get what you want. It's not going to come to you.'"

Texas won that game against Baylor on Feb. 15, dropped three more after that before finishing the regular season on a three-game winning streak. Now the Longhorns (19-11, 7-9 in the Big 12) are still facing the possibility of not making it to the Big Dance. Their best chance may be a successful run through the conference tournament next week.

So why should the Longhorns make it? To start, they have what many bubble teams (i.e. Florida and NC State) are lacking: one of the toughest schedules in the country -- seventh according to collegerpi.com.

While the Longhorns haven't always looked the a tourney-ready team in their up-and-down first year under Goestenkors, they did play a tough schedule that included 11 ranked teams (five wins). They went on the road to play Arizona State and faced DePaul on a neutral court.

And Texas has competed in what is arguably the nation's toughest conference. The Big 12 ranks first in RPI. Two of the Longhorns' conference wins were against top 10 teams -- Baylor was ranked eighth when it lost to Texas and Oklahoma was 10th when the Sooners were 65-49, in Norman.

"I think we're definitely in the tournament so that feels good, but we know that we are still on a mission," Goestenkors said after Wednesday's win against Texas Tech.

That mission starts at Big 12 tournament on Tuesday. Texas will face the Lady Raiders again, a team the Longhorns split the series with this season. A win this time would give the Longhorns a matchup against Oklahoma State, another ranked team. Goestenkors knows that also means a chance at making a bigger impression on the selection committee.

"I believe we are playing some of our best basketball right now, and that's a good thing because this is the time of the year you want to start peaking," she said. "But, we have things to prove and that's also a good thing. Right now, our focus is on the Big 12 tournament."

Who's No. 1?

Texas isn't the only team hoping to help itself during the conference tournaments. Connecticut, North Carolina and Tennessee have likely wrapped up No. 1 seeds, but the final top seed is there for the team with the best showings over the next few days. Here are the leading candidates:

• Maryland has notched some impressive nonconference wins, including Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. The Terrapins also beat LSU with ACC player of the year Crystal Langhorne sidelined by an ankle injury.

• A loss to UConn in the regular-season finale didn't help Rutgers' cause, but the Scarlet Knights are still in the race. Before that loss, they handed the Huskies their only loss before turning around to almost beat Tennessee (a loss that was so controversial, many AP voters still count it as a win for the Scarlet Knights). As one of the toughest conferences this year, getting far in the Big East tournament could also give C. Vivian Stringer's squad a big boost.

• Having lost to Connecticut, Maryland and Rutgers, LSU has the weakest argument of the three. The Tigers did beat Tennessee and won the SEC regular season title, though. If they can win the tournament too, they deserve consideration.