Texas has a shot at earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Longhorns might need to win the Big 12 tournament for the first time to do it.
The eighth-ranked Longhorns begin their run at the Big 12 tourney title Friday when they meet Texas Tech in the quarterfinals.
Texas (25-5), which shared the Big 12 regular-season title with Kansas, has never won the tournament. The Longhorns have reached the championship game twice, losing to Oklahoma in 2001 and Oklahoma State in 2004.
This season may represent Texas’ best chance to finally break through. Besides the fact that the tournament is being played in Dallas, the Longhorns boast the Big 12 player of the year in P.J. Tucker and defensive player of the year in LaMarcus Aldridge.
Tucker became the first Longhorn to win the player of the year award after averaging 16.1 points and a conference-leading 9.0 rebounds per game. He was a major reason why Texas captured its first conference title since 1999.
“I’ve had a pretty good season,” Tucker said. “The guys look to me to be a leader, to make plays. It feels good.”
Texas is glad to have Tucker back for the postseason after the junior forward was declared academically ineligible midway through last season. The Longhorns lost their two postseason games without him in 2005.
“He loves this game,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “I knew he would be a person that would come back from it.”
The Longhorns have won 18 of their last 20 meetings with the Red Raiders, including both this season by an average of 27.5 points. Tucker and Aldridge combined for 70 points in the two games.
Texas Tech (15-16) advanced with a 73-65 first-round victory over Kansas State on Thursday. Jarrius Jackson scored 21 points despite shooting 4-of-17 as the Red Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak.
Jackson was one of the few Texas Tech players who played well against Texas this season, averaging 17.5 points. He shot 52 percent in the two games, while his teammates shot just under 29 percent.
“We think they present a very big challenge,” Jackson said of the Longhorns. “I think it is a very big opportunity for us. We just have to answer that opportunity.”
The Red Raiders also need a win to avoid coach Bob Knight’s first losing season since 1970-71. His Army team went 11-13 that season.
“I have always thought that you start out the season trying to win the national championship,” Knight said. “When that’s eliminated, you are trying to go to the NCAA tournament. … Our goal was to win a game in (the Big 12) tournament and then see what we can do from there.”
This is just the third meeting between Texas Tech and Texas in Big 12 tournament play. Texas won 86-83 in a first-round game in 1998, while Texas Tech won 92-81 in the quarterfinals in 2003.