As part of its preview of the 2016 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 statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 20-12, 11-7 Big 12
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 111.5(44)/95.9(32)
Seed: West No. 6
Impact Player: Isaiah Taylor, junior, guard, 14.8 points, 4.9 assists
The Case For: The Longhorns' resume represents something of a Rorschach test for college basketball fans. Look at their schedule and you'll see what you want to see. First, the positives. Texas topped North Carolina in December, before adding the pelts of Oklahoma and West Virginia to their mantle in February. While navigating the country's toughest schedule, the Longhorns were one of just four teams to notch five victories over top 25 competition. The other three schools are all top-2 seeds (Kansas, Virginia and Xavier) in this year's tournament. The 'Horns don't turn the ball over (22nd nationally in turnover rate), and they boast remarkable depth, with 11 players averaging 10 minutes played per game. The offense is driven by Tyalor, who averages 15 points and five assists per game, raising both of those numbers for the second consecutive year. On the other end, senior forward Prince Ibeh has become one of the nation's preeminent shot swatters in fellow senior Cameron Ridley's absence, blocking 2.0 shots per game in just 18.1 minutes. Ridley, who averaged 3.4 blocks per game before going down in December with a foot injury, returned to the floor during the Big 12 tournament, which could be a huge boost to his team's frontlone. And then there's their first-year coach, Shaka Smart, who took VCU to the NCAA tournament the previous five years—including the 2011 Final Four—and has now gotten Texas there in his first season in Austin.
The Case Against: So, why aren't the Longhorns going into the NCAAs as a top seed? Well, they lost in January to Big 12 bottom-feeder TCU for one thing. And they suffered a 30-point home defeat against Kansas just two weeks ago. With a chance to improve its resume in the Big 12 tournament, Texas instead dropped its opener to Baylor by 14 points. While the team's defense has been strong, the Longhorns have allowed an offensive rebound rate of 32.3%, good enough for 291st nationally. Ridley's return (along with his team-high 26.6% defensive rebound rate) should help, but he only played two minutes against the Bears last week as Texas was outrebounded 46 to 27. And then there's the issue of the free throw stripe, where the Longhorns 66.5% rate ranks 304th in the country, and Ridley (41.5%) will not help in that area. Texas will also have to prove it can win outside of Austin. While they racked up a 14-3 home record, the Longhorns were just 5-5 on the road this year and 1-4 in neutral-site contests.
SI Prediction: Lose Northern Iowa in the first round