As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 20-13 (8-10 Big 12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 110.3 (42nd)/93.3 (19th)
Seed: Midwest No. 11
Impact player: Myles Turner, freshman, forward. 10.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 111.5 offensive rating
The Case For: The Longhorns boast one of the nation’s best defenses. They hold opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 42.2, fourth nationally according to KenPom. Texas also ranks No. 1 in the country in two-point percentage defense (37.8) and block percentage (20.2). In fact, three Longhorns—Turner, Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh—rank among the Big 12’s top five shot-blockers this season. If you want a disruptive defense, look no further than the Longhorns.
Texas has used defense to tussle in one of the country’s tougher conferences. Its résumé includes wins over nonconference opponents like Iowa and UConn alongside victories over West Virginia, Baylor and Kansas State in league play. The Longhorns aren’t likely to be shell-shocked by tournament competition; their strength of schedule ranks 10th nationally, per kenpom.com. Plus, oft-criticized coach Rick Barnes is no stranger to the grind of March. He has reached the NCAA tournament in 21 of his 28 years as a head coach.
The Case Against: The Longhorns are fresh off a heartbreaking loss in the Big 12 tournament. They looked poised to upset No. 13 Iowa State after holding a 67-57 lead with four minutes to play. But the Cyclones closed the game on a 12-0 run to win, 69-67. Texas’ inability to force turnovers—it ranks 349th nationally in defensive turnover percentage—played a part, as it frustrated Iowa State into just five miscues on the day. A win would’ve put less pressure on the ‘Horns on Selection Sunday. Instead, the roster’s inability to close out games now fell under the spotlight.
Twelve of Texas' 13 losses to teams ranked in kenpom.com’s top 50 teams. The program’s poor performance against top-tier teams is a big reason why Barnes’ seat is warming, at least in the eyes of Longhorns fans. Texas began the year as a preseason top-15 team but ended up scratching and clawing just to get into the Big Dance. Can this program make noise in the tournament without knowing the fate of its head coach?
SI prediction: Lose in Round of 64 to Butler