Posted by Ryan Clark at 12:18PM

NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship — Midwest Region — Third Round
[7] Texas Longhorns (24-10) vs. [2] Michigan Wolverines (26-8)
Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI | Tip: 4:15 CT | TV: CBS
Vegas: Michigan -4.5 | Pomeroy: Michigan, 73-69 (66%)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Big-name school loses its best players and has to rely on a group of sophomores and surprising freshman. Conference coach of the year honors are bestowed upon the man at the head of the bench. Hopes are high for the team to repeat their surprising run to the Final Four from the year before.

Up until that last point, Michigan and Texas have some similarities in their storylines this season. Fresh off an appearance in the national title game, the Wolverines were expecting to lean on big man Mitch McGary (No. 4) following the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the NBA. Back problems cropped up for McGary during the summer, however, and the player who burst on to the national scene in last year’s NCAA tournament was limited to just eight games this year before having to shut it down.

That injury put the Wolverines at a disadvantage in the paint in a rough-and-tumble Big 10 Conference and raised some serious questions for a team that was just 8-4 in non-conference, had suffered a questionable loss to Charlotte, and whiffed on three opportunities for marquee wins. No matter, as John Beilein simply guided his team through the landmines of an unpredictable Big 10 season to a conference title that they won by a three-game margin.

John Beilein has Michigan poised for another March run
(Photo credit: Al Goldis/Associated Press)

Although Michigan seemed to be in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, a loss in the Big 10 tournament championship to rival Michigan State may have been what kept the blue and maize on the 2-seed line. Thanks to the NCAA’s pod system, the Wolverines still get to play their first two games fairly close to home, in Milwaukee. However, if Friday night’s crowd was any indication, the sea of Badger red at the Bradley Center could make this feel a little more like a road game for Michigan.

By the Numbers

The Wolverines have the third-best offense in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy’s magic machines, scoring 1.214 adjusted points per possession. Michigan is incredibly patient with the basketball, works for open looks, and generally doesn’t miss once they find them. They average just 62.7 possessions per game, making them the 23rd-slowest team out of 351 D-I squads.

What is most impressive is that Michigan finds this level of offensive success without many second chances. The Wolverines reclaim just 28.8% of their missed shots, an offensive rebounding rate that puts them in D-I’s Bottom 100 in that category. To be able to score that efficiently without offensive boards takes a combination of great ball control and excellent shooting. Michigan coughs it up on only 14.9% of their possessions, which ranks 18th nationally.

As for the shooting, the Wolverines are absolutely deadly. Beyond the arc, Michigan makes 39.4% of its shots, which ranks 13th in the country. They take 40% of their shots from long range, which isn’t that surprising for a team that shoots the long ball so well. But even when Michigan isn’t torching the nets from three-point range, they work for great looks inside and convert them. On the season, they have made 53% of their two-point field goals, a stat is once again near the top of the national charts, ranking 20th.

While the Texas defense will have its hands full trying to slow down the Michigan attack, the Horns should be able to find a little more success on the other side of the ball. The Wolverines are allowing an adjusted 1.009 points per possession, a number that is up significantly from the stats that Beilein’s teams usually put up. The Wolverines have had lapses where they allow dribble penetration, they are typically exploited inside by bigger teams, and they have also had some issues getting set to stop the secondary break.

For the second-straight game, the Longhorns are facing a team that does not force too many turnovers, something that comes as a relief for a young backcourt that sometimes struggles with ball control. The Wolverines only force opponents into possession-ending mistakes 17.2% of the time, so Texas will likely not see much in the way of pressure this afternoon. As a result, the Longhorns should only have to avoid frustrating unforced errors that would make it tough to keep up with Michigan’s highly-efficient offense.

Meet the Wolverines

Derrick Walton, Jr. is a dynamic point guard
(Photo credit: AJ Mast/Associated Press)

It isn’t easy for a freshman point guard to follow in the footsteps of a consensus All-American, National Player of the Year, and Cousy Award winner. Is 6’1″ Derrick Walton, Jr. (No. 10) Trey Burke? Of course not. But the freshman guard has performed admirably while having to fill the shoes of a legend, posting an assist rate north of 20% while also drilling more than 40% of his threes.

Walton has an incredibly quick first step to beat tight defenses, and he couples that burst with a hesitation dribble that keeps defenders guessing. He also showed an incredible amount of hustle and scrappiness in a road win against Ohio State — the program’s first in its last ten tries — where he posted 10 rebounds despite being the smallest player on the court.

Although it’s Walton that runs the show, it’s 6’6″ Canadian product Nik Stauskas (No. 11) that gets the ink. He has made 45.1% of his three-pointers on the year, a number that’s even more impressive when you see just how closely Big 10 opponents guarded him throughout the season. Stauskas also improved his slashing ability this season, and he repeatedly puts the ball on the deck to punish opponents who overplay him on the perimeter.

Stauskas needs very little time or space to get his shot off, so defenses really have to completely deny him the ball to have any chance of stopping him. Even with a defender in his face, Stauskas often uses a quick crossover to earn just a sliver of space, which is all he needs to rise up and can a triple.

While guarding Stauskas will be enough of a chore for the Longhorns today, they also have to deal with another 6’6″ shooter in freshman Caris LeVert (No. 23). Like Stauskas, LeVert can elevate quickly and get his three-pointers up over the defense, but he also has driving ability to exploit tight defenses. His height and athleticism make him a very tough cover on the wing, and he can get to the rim in an instant with his long strides.

With Stauskas and LeVert bringing so much length to the perimeter, the Texas guards are going to find it difficult to simply face up and drive the gaps this afternoon. If the Longhorns are patient, they will find cracks in Michigan’s defense, but they have been frustrated this season by teams with similar length and have not exercised the patience necessary to find good looks. If Texas falls into that same trap this afternoon, it will be very difficult to pull off an upset.

Glenn Robinson III (No. 1) is yet another athletic 6’6″ player for the Wolverines, and he will be involved in a pair of interesting mismatches this afternoon. On defense, he will clearly be undersized against the likes of Jonathan Holmes or Connor Lammert. Although Michigan could play a zone to offset the size difference, they have typically stuck with the man defense this year, even against bigger teams like Michigan State. On the other end of the court, Robinson’s athleticism and ability to slash will be tough for those same two Longhorns to stay in front of, and a zone would likely be a death sentence against the outside shooting of Michigan.

Inside, 6’8″ senior Jordan Morgan (No. 52) will have his hands full against Cameron Ridley this afternoon. Morgan has performed admirably this season, having to step into a much different role than he had envisioned prior to McGary’s injury. On a team that does not clean the offensive glass, Morgan’s 12.6% offensive rebounding rate is incredibly impressive. The 19.5% mark he posts on the defensive end is also a big part of the team’s success on that side of the boards, where they are surprisingly ranked 54th in the country.

Backing up Morgan down low is Jon Horford (No. 15), a 6’10” big who will be very important against the Texas frontcourt this afternoon. In last Sunday’s Big 10 title game, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne quickly tagged Horford with two fouls and Morgan with one in a single possession, putting Horford on the bench just 96 seconds into the game. That forced little-used Max Bielfeldt (No. 44) into action early, a fate that Michigan sorely wants to avoid this afternoon.

In the backcourt, Michigan relies on Zak Irvin (No. 21) and Spike Albrecht (No. 2) off the bench. Irvin is another 6’6″ guy with a deadly outside stroke, but unlike the other Michigan marksmen, he doesn’t like to put the ball on the floor and try to attack with the bounce. Irvin has taken 74.6% of his shots from beyond the arc, and averages roughly four three-point attempts per game, despite seeing the court for just 15.8 minutes per game.

While Albrecht is best known for his three-point barrage against Louisville in last year’s title game (and day-after tweet to Kate Upton), he is truly a facilitator. He has seen some important minutes in crunch time this year, giving the Wolverines a steady ballhandler who creates looks for his teammates. Yes, Albrecht still shoots 39% from long range and can’t be given space, but it’s his 25% assist rate that has made him even more dangerous this season.

Keys to the Game

1) Dominate the paint – It’s going to be a battle of styles this afternoon, and whichever team does a better job imposing its will on the other will likely be advancing to Indianapolis. Michigan will obviously try to take away the paint for Texas, whether that is by using a sagging man defense or just going zone and daring a poor-shooting Longhorn team to beat them with jumpers. The Longhorns have to play their style of basketball and be persistent in getting points in the paint. If they fail to do that and just hope to win with another crazy shooting performance like they had on Friday night, the upset odds look very long.

Nik Stauskas is a three-point marksman
(Photo credit: Al Goldis/Associated Press)

2) Limit perimeter damage – With so many great shooters on the perimeter for Michigan, the Longhorns are going to have a very tough time shutting down the three-point threat. Add in the significant size advantage that Michigan enjoys at the two and the three, and the defensive assignment is even tougher for the Horns. Demarcus Holland will have to use his length to try to stifle Stauskas, and needs to play him high to not only deny the ball, but also funnel him baseline to the waiting shot blockers if he tries to go backdoor.

To guard LeVert, the Longhorns might need to call on Martez Walker for big minutes once again. The freshman has seen an increased role in the last three weeks, and his ability to limit dribble penetration and use his length to challenge outside shots are a big reason for that extra playing time. Although Javan Felix is a sophomore leader on this team, his size is a defensive liability against Michigan, so fans have to hope Walker can step up and help to limit the damage.

3) Dictate the tempo – Michigan’s lethargic pace is a direct result of their patience on offense, plus the fact that opponents usually have to exercise the same patience and move the ball quickly to find the cracks in Michigan’s defense. If the Longhorns can get out and run, they will find that the Wolverine defense is not only questionable in transition, but they also often fail to recover quickly enough to stop the secondary break.

An up-tempo game has also proven to throw Michigan’s offense out of sync, as seen in their early-season loss to Iowa State. The Cyclones and Wolverines played 74 possessions in that game, and Michigan shot just 8-of-29 from long range. While the Wolverines missed some shots they usually doesn’t, they also took quite a few early threes, rather than getting the great looks that their methodical offense typically earns. If Texas can force Michigan into speeding things up a little this afternoon, the Horns have a much better chance to finally return to the Sweet Sixteen.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:31PM

[7] Texas Longhorns (23-10) vs. [10] Arizona State Sun Devils (21-11)
Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI | Tip: Approx. 8:40 P.M. CT | TV: CBS
Vegas: Texas -1.5 | Pomeroy: Texas, 72-71 (53%)

After fourteen consecutive years in the NCAA tournament, the Texas Longhorns stumbled through a disastrous 2012-13 campaign last season, ultimately flaming out in the first round of the CBI, Division I basketball’s third-tier postseason tournament. Predictions for this year’s team weren’t much better, with the Longhorns projected by the Big 12’s coaches to finish eighth out of ten teams. The media consensus was that head coach Rick Barnes was simply playing out the string, destined to have another mediocre or terrible season and earn his walking papers.

Instead, a team made up of unheralded freshmen, sophomores who were formerly role players, and one quiet, junior leader have brought the Longhorns back to their familiar March home. Thanks to an early seven-game winning streak in the nation’s toughest conference, Texas didn’t even have to sweat the NCAA tournament bubble to earn their bid to this year’s tournament.

Of course, overachieving also brings higher expectations. Now that the Longhorns are back in the tournament, the program’s recent NCAA history is once again part of the discussion. Since a 2008 run to the Elite Eight, the Longhorns have posted only a 2-4 mark in four trips to the Big Dance, and have failed to advance to the tournament’s second weekend. Although the Longhorn fanbase has been pleasantly surprised by this year’s team, another one-and-done visit to the NCAAs would be considered a failure.

Herb Sendek is concerned by his team’s recent slide
(Photo credit: Rick Scuteri/Associated Press)

By the numbers

To avoid that fate, Texas will have to get through a stingy Arizona State team that plays stout defense and shoots the ball well from outside. Like the Longhorns, the Sun Devils have stumbled through the final few weeks of the season, and they are entering the NCAAs on a slide. ASU has lost their last three games and five of their last seven, a skid that came as a surprise on the heels of their exciting, double-overtime win against rival Arizona on Valentine’s Day.

On the defensive end, the Sun Devils allow just 0.963 adjusted points per possession, the 33rd-best mark in Division I hoops. Arizona State does a good job limiting dribble penetration by playing tight on the perimeter, helping off the ball to clog driving lanes, and hedging hard on ball screens and recovering quickly. Inside, the presence of 7-foot, 2-inch shot-blocker extraordinaire Jordan Bachynski (No. 13) helps to clean up any drives that do happen to reach the paint. As a result, opponents take just 27.5% of their shots from long range and face a dilmena once they are inside the arc — take the higher-risk, low-reward midrange jumper, or force up a challenged look inside against a set defense with a gargantuan rim protector?

On the other end of the court, the Sun Devils take more than enough threes to make up for the ones their opponents don’t take. ASU fires up 37.5% of their looks from behind the arc, and with a success rate of 38.6%, who can blame them? That makes them the 31st-most accurate three-point shooting team in NCAA Division I, and it keeps them in games despite not having an interior presence on the offensive end.

Two ASU statistics that bode well for the Longhorns are their defensive turnover rate and their offensive rebounding numbers. During Texas’ late-season struggles, a spike in turnover rate helped to fuel blowouts at Kansas and Kansas State, and it put them in an early hole in a road loss to Iowa State. With the Sun Devils only forcing turnovers on 17.1% of opponents’ possessions, the Longhorns can hopefully avoid turnover woes tonight.

Arizona State also only reclaims 24.2% of their missed shots, ranking them ahead of only 12 out of the 351 teams in Division I. In their loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament, the Sun Devils won back just 6.5% of their missed shots! Against a Texas team that already posts excellent rebounding numbers on both ends of the court, those offensive rebounding struggles mean that the Sun Devils will have to make their threes if they want to advance to Saturday’s Round of 32.

Jahii Carson always finds his way to the rim
(Photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

Meet the Sun Devils

Arizona State’s most well-known player is also its smallest, 5’10” point guard Jahii Carson (No. 1). A shifty sophomore who can slither through defenses with ease, Carson has already announced that he will be going pro following the season, setting the table for him to pump up his draft stock with a quality tournament run.

Although Carson is fearless in attacking the rim and seems to do it on every possession, he is still incredibly accurate when he pops a three-pointer, making more than 39% of his looks. His aggressive penetration is also key in setting up teammates, with 29.1% of his teammate’s baskets when he’s on the court come as a result of his passes.

Joining Carson in the backcourt is sharpshooter Jermaine Marshall (No. 34), a Penn State transfer who has made 40% of his threes on the year and averages more than 2.5 makes per game. Although Marshall is known for a quick release and deadly long-range accuracy, he can also take advantage of defenses that get up in his shirt by slashing to the rim.

To say that Carson and Marshall fuel the Arizona State offense would be a considerable understatment. The pair has combined to play 80.6% of the team’s available minutes, with Carson taking 30.3% of the shots when he’s on the floor, and Marshall taking 26% of the shots when he’s on the court. Although there are other Sun Devils who can score against Texas tonight, a game plan that closely shadows Marshall and keeps Carson in front of the D would make things very, very difficult on ASU.

On the wing, 6’5″ juco transfer Shaquielle McKissic (No. 40) is another driving threat, although he lacks the burst of Carson or the three-point threat of Marshall to keep defenses off-balance. Instead, McKissic has a craftier game, using good angles and spin moves to work his way towards the paint, while his great defensive instincts lead to quite a few easy, fast-break looks, as well.

The fourth spot in the starting five has belonged to Eric Jacobsen (No. 3) for the final few weeks of the season, but his scant contributions in recent games have opened the door for Jonathan Gilling (No. 31) to reclaim his starting role. Jacobsen provides the team some size at 6’10”, but he is incredibly foul-prone and frequently turns the ball over. Against the Longhorns, Jacobsen might have to play extended minutes to match up against Jonathan Holmes, but after averaging just five minutes in the team’s last three games, it’s hard to see him making much of a contribution.

The 6’7″ Gilling worked out with the starting group in yesterday’s open practice, and he gives the Sun Devils an offensive option that Jacobsen just cannot provide. Gilling is almost exlusively a long-range threat, having drilled 42.5% of his threes on the year. Three-point attempts make up 79% of his shots, and he needs very little time or space to one up, so Texas must stick to him like glue. If the Longhorns can keep him from getting daylight, Gilling’s inability to put the ball on the floor and make midrange jumpers would make him a non-factor.

Jordan Bachysnki frustrates opponents with his interior defense
(Photo credit: Matt York/Associated Press)

In the middle, Bachynski is a defensive presence that has frustrated opponents all season long. The Canadian product set the Pac-12’s all-time blocks record with seven games still left in his senior year, and he has posted the nation’s ninth-best block rate this year, swatting 12.7% of opponents’ two-point shots when he’s on the court. On the other end of the floor, Bachynski has a good hook shot over both shoulders when he’s isolated on the block, and he’s a monster target cutting to the rim on pick-and-rolls after the team’s frequent high ball screens.

Off the bench, Bo Barnes (No. 4) is a three-point gunner who forced his way into the rotation when Marshall was struggling through a groin injury earlier this year. A local kid who started his college career at Hawaii, Barnes has made more than 40% of his threes this season and averaged more than 28 minutes in the team’s last three games.

With a core rotation of seven players, depth is a major concern for Arizona State tonight. The Sun Devils also squeeze about 14 minutes per game out of 6’5″ Russian freshman Egor Koulechev (No. 15), but he has played just a total of seven minutes in the team’s last five contests. If foul trouble becomes a factor in this game, Coach Herb Sendek won’t find many options as he looks down the bench.

Keys to the game

1) Attack inside – The Arizona State defense does a great job contracting and cutting off passing and driving lanes, so this is much easier said than done. However, if the Longhorns can pound the ball down low, they can not only attempt to exploit their size advantage, but also put Arizona State’s game-changer in foul trouble. If Bachynski is sidelined due to foul concerns, that Texas size advantage becomes even greater and interior points should be even more plentiful.

2) Push the pace – One glaring weakness in the Arizona State defense this season has been an inability to stop transition and the secondary break. UCLA and Utah are just two Pac-12 teams who exposed that deficiency this season, and Texas must aim to do the same thing tonight. The Longhorns need to look up after missed Sun Devil shots and quickly get as many people down the floor as they can. The Sun Devils don’t often turn the ball over, so Longhorn transition opportunities will have to come off of defensive rebounds.

3) Stick with the shooters – Texas’ interior defense and Arizona State’s preference for the long ball mean that the Longhorns don’t need to worry about giving up too many points in the paint. However, the Sun Devils can easily light it up from long range, and NCAA tournament history has shown that a key ingredient in a Round of 64 upset is hot three-point shooting. The Longhorns cannot afford to lose track of Marshall, Gilling, or Barnes, and they also have to keep up with Carson when he doesn’t have the ball. If Texas can keep Arizona State close to or below their season average behind the arc, the Horns should be able to advance to the next round.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:47AM

The streak lives on in Austin, Texas.

After an up-and-down season in which the Longhorns lived on the bubble for the final few weeks of play, Rick Barnes continued his perfect mark on the Forty Acres, earning his 14th NCAA tournament bid in his 14th season as Texas’ head coach. The Longhorns’ streak is tied for fourth-longest among active streaks with Gonzaga and Wisconsin, and falls behind only Kansas (23 consecutive appearances), Duke (17), and Michigan State (15).

Although Barnes and the NCAA tournament have become synonymous over the last decade and a half, this year’s bid wasn’t a sure thing until the final days. Texas needed a comeback victory over Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals, and benefited from numerous losses by bubble teams across the country. The Longhorns also managed to narrowly avoid the First Four games in Dayton, making the field just one slot ahead of the “Last Four In.”

Texas will open play against Cincinnati in Nashville on Friday morning at 11:15 CT. Although the Bearcats were runners-up in last weekend’s Big East tournament, they grabbed even more headlines in early December with their infamous “Crosstown Brawl” with rival Xavier. Four players were suspended for six games as a result of their participation in the melee, most notably senior big man Yancy Gates. Rather than folding, the Bearcats seemed to gather strength from the ugly incident. Mick Cronin led his team to a 12-6 mark in the tough Big East, putting the Bearcats in a three-way tie for fourth.

In the Big East Tournament, Cincinnati survived a thrilling double-overtime battle with Georgetown, the team’s second win over the Hoyas this season. A night later, the Bearcats became just the second team to knock off Syracuse this year, and the first to do it with Fab Melo on the court. Sean Kilpatrick led a three-point barrage for Cincinnati, which hit eight of its first 10 long-range looks. After building a lead as large as 17 points, the Bearcats were able to withstand a late rally by the Orange and advance to the Big East tournament finals.

The hot shooting of the semifinals would be short-lived for Cincinnati, which missed 11 of its first 12 shots against Louisville in the championship game. The ‘Cats would recover to finish 39.2% from the field, but sank just three of 14 from behind the arc. Cincinnati’s 0.746 points per possession were the fewest for the team all season long, much worse than the team’s previous season low of 0.803, posted against Xavier.

Ken Pomeroy gives Texas a 52% chance to knock off the Bearcats, predicting a one-point margin of victory. If the Longhorns do in fact earn a victory in the Round of 64, they would advance to face either Florida State or St. Bonaventure on Sunday.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 2:05AM

Gary Johnson and Texas tumbled to a 4 seed
(Photo credit: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

A day after falling to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament final, the Texas Longhorns were awarded a 4 seed in the NCAA’s West Regional by the Selection Committee. The Horns will open tournament play against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Friday at 11:15 A.M. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If Texas wins its first game — now considered a part of the second round — the Longhorns will advance to face either Arizona or Memphis in a third round game on Sunday.

Texas will have its hands full preparing for Oakland this week. The Golden Grizzlies boast one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and utilize an up-tempo attack that gives them even more opportunities to pile up the points. Oakland is led by a bona fide star in big man Keith Benson, a 6’11” shot-blocking, rebounding machine that will undoubtedly be playing in the NBA next year. A full look at Texas’ second round match-up will be available in LRT’s game preview later this week.

The at-large selection was the 13th consecutive NCAA tournament bid for Texas, a streak that dates back to 1999. The 13-year run is tied for fourth-longest among active streaks with Gonzaga and Wisconsin, and puts the Horns behind only Kansas (22 consecutive appearances), Duke (16), and Michigan State (14).

While the bid was expected, the 4 seed came as a surprise to most national observers. Prior to the bracket being released, most projections had Texas firmly on the 3-seed line, with a few writers — such as CNNSI’s Andy Glockner — even slotting Texas as a 2 seed. Fellow SI scribe Luke Winn called Texas’ 4 seed “harsh” on Twitter, while sympathizing with the Longhorn bigs who would be tasked with containing Benson. ESPN’s Jay Bilas even took the time to disagree with Texas and Kentucky’s 4 seeds in between his numerous rants against the selection committee.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, Kansas secured a 1 seed in the Southwest Regional, and will also play their second and third round games at the BOK Center in Tulsa. Kansas State earned a 5 seed and will face the WAC Champion Utah State Aggies in Tucson on Thursday night. The Missouri Tigers, who were bounced in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, were tabbed an 11 seed and will face Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday night in Washington, D.C.

Alec Burks and Cory Higgins were relegated to the NIT
(Photo credit: Orlin Wagner/Associated Press)

Texas A&M was slotted as a 7 seed and will face Florida State, a team that will get a boost if Chris Singleton finally returns after fracturing his foot on February 12th. There was speculation that Singleton would return for the ACC tournament, but he did not play against Virginia Tech and the Seminoles were promptly sent packing in one of the most tense conference tournament endings in recent memory. With an extra week off, perhaps the 6’9″ forward will be ready to give it a go on Friday afternoon in Chicago.

The Big 12 collected just five bids in this year’s tournament, as Colorado was left on the wrong side of the bubble. Despite three wins over Kansas State and home wins against both Missouri and Texas, the Buffaloes’ atrocious non-conference schedule was the likely cause of their omission. Colorado’s non-conference strength of schedule was ranked 324th out of 345 Division I teams by Ken Pomeroy, with the Buffs suffering losses against the few quality opponents. Coach Tad Boyle and his team will have to bounce back quickly from the disappointment, however, as they are a 1 seed in the NIT and will host Texas Southern on Wednesday.

Nebraska and Oklahoma State also earned NIT bids, while Baylor will be sitting out the 2011 post-season. The Cornhuskers travel to Wichita State on Wednesday night, while on Tuesday Oklahoma State will host Harvard. The Crimson slid into the NIT after Princeton stunned them with a buzzer-beater to win a one-game playoff for the Ivy League title and an automatic NCAA berth.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 4:38PM

Who knew that trying to cram four days with a 40-hour work week, a 20-hour drive to Greensboro, a little bit of sleep, and a lot of game watching would be next to impossible? Unfortunately, I’m only about 30 minutes from hitting the road for this weekend’s game(s?) in North Carolina, and I’ve spent maybe a total of 15 minutes looking at the brackets since the selection show. As a result, the bracket I just threw together in the last five minutes looks like…well, a bracket thrown together in five minutes.

If you want to challenge (and destroy) that bracket in a free pool, click on over to the Longhorn Road Trip group in the SI Bracket Challenge on Facebook. Winner will earn unending fame on LRT and their choice of one of next year’s two t-shirt designs.

We’re going to be cutting it close on the back end of this trip, as we should be pulling into Greensboro about four hours before the Longhorns tip against the Gophers. I’m not sure what kind of preview (if any) I’ll be able to write for the game, but you can get your hoops fix covered by reading the preview from the fine folks at Burnt Orange Nation and seeing what fellow our blogpollers at The Daily Gopher think about Thursday night’s match-up.

In the meantime, think fondly of us as we travel the long, purple line below. Because while you might wish that you were skipping work to criss-cross the country on a basketball sojourn, the fact of the matter is that we’ll be in the middle of nowhere running on a refined mixture of Starburst, Wheat Thins, and energy drinks. We’re just living the dream.

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