Sunday, February 25, 2024

UT men’s basketball eyes deeper tournament run

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UT men’s basketball players celebrate a victory with their coach as he’s interviewed following their second round victory last weekend. Photo: Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

After years of underwhelming post-season play, the Longhorns men’s basketball team is poised to do something really special in this March Madness tournament.

Driving the news: Friday’s matchup against Xavier marks Texas’ first Sweet 16 game since 2008.

Catch up quick: This has been a rollercoaster year for the Longhorns.

  • After being charged with a domestic violence felony, head coach Chris Beard was suspended in December and then fired. (The charges were subsequently dropped and he was hired at Ole Miss earlier this month.)
  • Interim head coach Rodney Terry might have earned himself a full-time contract by steering the team to a pair of March Madness victories last weekend, after winning the Big 12 Tournament.

The intrigue: Basketball watchers are wondering why Terry, who would be the school’s second Black full-time men’s basketball head coach, has not yet been offered the big job.

  • “Lack of class by Texas athletic board,” college basketball commentator Dick Vitale tweeted this week. “I can buy waiting until the end of the regular season on the status of ⁦Rodney Terry. However after winning ⁦the Big 12 conference title, he deserved a multi-year deal.”
  • The American-Statesman reported Wednesday Penn State and the University of California-Berkeley are interested in hiring Terry, who had served as an assistant under Beard.

The big picture: The Longhorns, seeded second in their corner of the bracket, have experience — including seven returning players from last season — and a ton of talent.

  • Big man Dylan Disu, a product of Pflugerville’s Hendrickson High, scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a scrappy victory over the weekend against Penn State — and he’s not usually one of the team’s top scorers.

What they’re saying: “It starts with habits we build daily and the league we play in,” Disu said after the victory, referring to the Big 12. “We’ve been battle-tested.”

What we’re watching: Whether UT, favored by four points over Xavier, can make things easy for themselves and shoot well from 3-point land.

  • UT went just 1-13 from downtown against Penn State.

How to watch: The game will tip on CBS at 8:45pm. The victor takes on the winner of Houston and Miami.

  • And if UT can make it to the Final Four next weekend in Houston, it will surely enjoy the feel of a home court advantage.

The bottom line: “This has been a very resilient group all year long,” Terry said at a post-game news conference after the Longhorns outlasted Penn State. “They have a will to not lose. They’re a very, very connected group and they’ve been incredibly unselfish all year long.”

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