The Texas Longhorns cleared out Shaka Smart to be better than this under Chris Beard

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Inside the packed purple palace on Tuesday night in Fort Worth there was nary a Texas Tech Red Raiders fan on hand to yell and scream at their least-favorite former head coach.

The Red Raiders have their eyes set on Feb. 1, when the Nature Boy Ric Flair and Tech (not kidding) host the University of Texas in men’s basketball and Chris Beard.

Beard should do himself a big favor and just put himself in COVID protocol rather than return to Lubbock. He does not have the team to run with Texas Tech this year.

Of the many developments this season in the Big 12, the most disappointing will remain how the conference refused to fight the NCAA over its postseason ban of conference member Oklahoma State.

A distant second, but second nonetheless, is Texas under Beard.

Betting against Beard to bomb in Austin is bad money, but the Longhorns should be much better under this coach than the guy they shoved out to take a job in Wisconsin, Shaka Smart.

Beating TCU 73-50 in front of a record 8,412 at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth on Tuesday night proves the Longhorns are not in a collapse mode, which they had shown flashes of since the start of the Big 12 schedule.

This was a performance Beard badly needed, or this year was headed toward some of that NIT magic.

Texas is the shakiest 15-5 team with a 5-3 conference record you can find. This is currently an unranked bubble team.

Every team in the Big 12 this season has a win over a Top 25 team, except Texas. The Longhorns got fat on a typical plate of “guarantee-game” garbage.

If Texas misses the NCAA Tournament in Beard’s first year, which is possible, it would be just another disaster for the school’s two revenue sports this season.

Not sure if you saw this, but the Longhorns football team finished 5-7. And they didn’t make a bowl. And they lost to Kansas. At home.

Former Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart had his faults (see Christian, Abilene), but the Horns were in the tournament last year.

Texas is 15-5, and should make the 68-team NCAA tournament with a .500 record in conference. The Horns could slide in with a 8-10 conference record based on not the strength of its schedule, but the strength of its name.

The NCAA Tournament has a soft heart when it comes to Texas.

But Texas has six games remaining against Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech. It will also play Tennessee on Saturday.

An oh-fer in those games is possible. If somehow Texas can’t win any of those seven games, the Longhorns should not be in the NCAA Tournament, and Beard should be ashamed.

No coach in the sport is supposed to be better equipped to thrive in this new era of the nomadic portal player, and flipping nearly the entire starting lineup in an offseason, better than Beard.

It’s why expectations for Beard’s first year at UT are justifiably high.

His first season in Austin has the look of a guy who believed too many of the headlines, and just another coach who needs talent to look smart.

As Texas showed on Tuesday night against a decent TCU team in Fort Worth, the Longhorns are good enough to convince you they can be a problem.

Tuesday night was the first time Texas looked like Texas Tech did under Beard. They defended well, rebounded, cut, passed, harassed, and outplayed TCU the entire night.

You knew it was bad for TCU when the biggest cheer was for the halftime show, and the little dog that had a better night ball handling than any of the Horned Frogs players.

Texas now starts its season-defining stretch, and everything is still possible, and plausible.

They can make the NCAA Tournament. They can make the NIT Tournament.

Either way, they should be better than this because their coach is Chris Beard.