Posted October 21st, 2016
The Texas men’s basketball team will start the season in the USA Today Coaches’ poll top 25. The Longhorns are No. 22, which is fairly impressive considering not a single starter returns to the Longhorns this season, including leading scorer Isaiah Taylor. But the Longhorns’ talent is deep and young. Flush with sophomores like Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach and freshmen Andrew Jones, James Banks and Jarrett Allen.
Texas looks like a team poised to be better in March than it will be in November and December this season, but coaches feel like they’re still going to be pretty good in the early months.
With the first of two major preseason rankings coming out Thursday, and the Texas Tip-Off event the same day, let’s take a look at the farthest a preseason-ranked Texas team has traveled in the NCAA Tournament:
5. 1996-97, preseason rank: 17
Texas, coached by Tom Penders and led by Reggie Freeman, began the season ranked No. 17 in the country and rose to as high as 13. Texas finished the regular season unranked but was able to sneak into the tournament as a No. 10 seed. Texas then caught a few breaks. After beating Wisconsin in the first round, Texas played No. 15-seed Coppin State, who stunned No. 2 seed South Carolina in the round of 64 . Texas was able to withstand Coppin State and reached the Sweet 16.
It wasn’t that sweet, however. Louisville and Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum dispatched the Longhorns 78-63 in the East Regional.
4. 2003-04: Preseason rank: 11
Coming off a Final Four appearance, but without star T.J. Ford, Texas still had enough talent to warrant a solid ranking just outside the top-10 with Royal Ivey, Brandon Mouton and P.J. Tucker on the roster. They rose to No. 6 in early December, but a loss to Arizona at the Jimmy V Classic, 91-83, and a 89-61 loss to Duke at the Dreyfus Classic (apparently not named after Richard) sent them tumbling to No. 19.
They steadily rose in the rankings, beating ranked Kansas and Texas Tech teams twice, before entering the tournament as a No. 3 seed. Texas scored a 3-point win over Roy Williams’ first North Carolina team in the round of 32, but lost to seven-seed Xavier 79-71 in the Sweet 16.
3. 2007-08: Preseason ranked: 16
After losing Kevin Durant, Texas needed sophomore D.J. Augustin to emerge as a star, and he did. Augustin was an All-American and the Bob Cousy Award winner for the Longhorns. He was All-Big 12 and if it weren’t for freshman Michael Beasley, he probably would have been the Big 12 Player of the Year. All in all, this was one of the best Big 12 basketball seasons ever, with Beasley acting like Durant on the stat sheet, six Big 12 teams making the tournament and Kansas winning the title. Texas split the conference title with the Jayhawks and reached the Big 12 tournament championship game before losing to the Jayhawks 84-74.
The Longhorns then held off Miami (Fl.) in the round of 32, 75-72, to reach the second weekend. They demolished Stanford 82-62 and reached the Elite 8. Texas then lost to No. 1 seed Memphis, led by the eventual No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose, 85-67 in the Elite Eight.
2. 2005-06: Preseason rank: 2
This is the highest Texas has ever been ranked in the preseason, eclipsing the No. 1 team on this list. Texas was led by LaMarcus Aldridge, Brad Buckman, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, P.J. Tucker and A.J. Abrams. Texas reeled off eight straight wins but never topped No. 1 Duke in the rankings. They had a chance when the two teams met on Dec. 10, 2005, and the Blue Devils made it a laugher, beating the Horns at home 97-66. Texas then lost 95-78 the next game to Tennessee and went from No. 2 to No. 6 to No. 16 in two weeks.
But Texas rebounded nicely, beating No. 4 Memphis 69-58 on the road before starting Big 12 play. They took a share of the conference title going 13-3 and beating ranked Kansas 80-55 and ranked Oklahoma 72-48. Texas reached the Big 12 title game, but Kansas exacted some payback by beating the Longhorns 80-68 in Dallas. Once in the tournament, Texas received a No. 2 seed and beat Penn, North Carolina State and West Virginia before falling in overtime to LSU, led by Glen Davis, 70-60, in the Elite Eight.
1. 2002-03: Preseason rank: No, 4
Texas had T.J. Ford running point and began the season No. 4, at the time one of the highest rankings in program history. Texas reached No. 2 before back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and No. 1 Arizona (led by new Lakers coach Luke Walton). Texas finished the Big 12 season 13-3, but were stunned in the Big 12 tournament by Texas Tech 92-81.
The Longhorns still received a No. 1 seed and outside of a 82-78 win over Connecticut in the Sweet 16, cruised to the Final Four in New Orleans. They met Carmelo Anthony and eventual champion Syracuse in the national semifinal and lost 95-84. It was the only time two Big 12 schools reached the Final 4, the other being Kansas.