Matt Norlander

Your mid-February bracket tip: pencil Texas into Elite Eight

The Dagger

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Well, this is setting up nicely.

It's a move so obvious, so in front of your face, you probably can't see it coming.

Texas has turned into a bit of a laughingstock. College hoops experts (and wannabe experts, like yours truly) have chmed in on why the big team from the big state hasn't been able to right the ship in the past month.

Just some of the reasons/excuses: the bench is too deep; Dexter Pittman can't stay out of foul trouble; there is no leader at the point guard position; the team can't decide on a consistent defense.

This struggle has been met with a collective look at the former No. 1 team as it falls into obscurity! kind of rubbernecking.

It's entirely possible, and even likely, that UT will not be ranked come Monday afternoon. I'm not sure any team has gone from No. 1 in the country to unranked in five weeks.

So everyone's starting to write off this team because it's resembling the bumbling Carolina Tar Heels and erratic UConn Huskies.

I think Texas is falling off the grid at the perfect time. We'll forget all about what it once was when it matters most.

Thing is, the Longhorns have too much talent. Could they lose in the first or second round of the NCAAs? Of course. And UT fans will lament Rick Barnes' coaching (or lack thereof; or, perhaps, the overcoaching) all the live long day, and that may be a factor in preventing the burnt orange from ever winning a national title under his tutelage.

It doesn't change what he's recruited and what we've seen happen this year. Texas has defeated Michigan State, Pittsburgh and North Carolina, back when we thought North Carolina gave a damn about winning.

The players who opened the season with a 17-0 record are still suiting up on scholarship in Austin. Although this once-a-title-contender team doesn't seem to have the chutzpah in it to win six games in March, surely you'd agree that the possibility to win three still exists, right?

It's all about matchups. We don't know what Texas will get, but I can assure you it will be more quipped to throw different looks at its opponent than just about any team. So if UT ends up being, say, a 5-seed (which is what I predict will happen), why couldn't it face up well against a 1-seed in, oh, let's go with Syracuse. Barnes has gone to the zone look, and somehow Syracuse has struggled against what it practices against.

All I'm saying is college basketball is slowly becoming as knee-jerk as the NFL on a Monday. Texas is coming apart at the seams, but think about how big you could win in your pool if you took a chance on a team with buckets of talent. That whole betting thing, going against the public. Yeah, seems to me it could apply in a big way to Texas.

But, if the Longhorns turn it around and only lose once until the tournament begins, well, then all this was for nothing.

And Gonzaga, which had another loss to a sub.-500 WCC team last night, you can throw it in there as an Elite Eight sleeper as well. Bulldogs are legit, even if they've shown a tendency to fall asleep and play down to competition.

Matt Norlander is the editor of College Hoops Journal. You can e-mail him at editor@collegehoopsjournal.com and follow him on Twitter.

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