Posted October 4th, 2017
With 37 days til Texas opens the season against Northwestern State on Nov. 10, it’s time to get excited about the upcoming men’s basketball season. Each day until the start of the season, we’ll give out a starting line up of five things you need to know about Texas basketball.
If history is any indication, Texas is going dancing in 2018.
The Longhorns haven’t missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in nearly 30 years, since the team led by Travis Mays, Lance Blanks and Alvin Heggs ended a 10-year string of misses. Here’s what happened the last five times Texas returned to the big dance.
Following the only below-.500 season of the Rick Barnes era, Texas bounced back with 24 wins in 2013-14. The team led by four double-digit scorers in Isaiah Taylor (12.7 ppg), Jonathan Holmes (12.8), Javan Felix (11.6) and Cameron Ridley (11.2) won at North Carolina in December and strung together seven straight conference wins.
They faded a bit down the stretch, going 6-6 in the final 12 including a semifinal loss to Baylor at the Big 12 tournament, but still landed a No. 7 seed on Selection Sunday.
What resulted was one of the wildest finishes of the tournament that year, when Ridley beat the buzzer for an 87-85 win over Arizona State. The Longhorns fell in the next round to No. 2-seeded Michigan 79-65.
Texas started 2-7 in Barnes’ first year with only eight scholarship players, yet somehow rebounded to win the Big 12 regular-season title outright. Rebound is the operative word, because the Longhorns had three players who averaged at least six boards per game, led by sophomore center Chris Mihm.
Gabe Muoneke (16.5 points, 6.6 rebounds), Kris Clack (14.2, 6.4) and Mihm (13.7, 11.0) carried a team light on guards to a 13-3 conference mark and a No. 7 seed. The magic ended with a first-round loss to Purdue in an ugly 58-54 grinder.
“We’ve got to get help outside,” Barnes said afterward. “We’ve got to have balance.”
T.J. Ford was only a couple seasons away.
Texas went 11-17 in 1992-93 before bouncing back in a big way the following year. Things got off to a rocky start due in part to a brutal nonconference slate. After starting 2-4, the Longhorns won 10 straight Southwest Conference games, won the league title with a 12-2 mark and captured the SWC Tournament crown.
B.J. Tyler led the ‘Horns in scoring at 22.8 points per game while also dishing out 6.2 assists. Terrence Rencher (15.9 ppg), Albert Burditt (15.7) and Roderick Anderson (12.3) also scored in double figures for the fourth-highest scoring team in Division I (91.8 ppg).
They landed a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tourney, drawing Western Kentucky in the first round. They ended up losing in the Round of 32 to third-seeded Michigan.
Tom Penders walked into a program that hadn’t made an NCAA Tournament in 10 years and took it there in his very first season. The Longhorns went 25-9 behind the high-scoring quartet of Travis Mays (21.9 ppg), Lance Blanks (19.7), Alvin Heggs (16.8) and Joey Wright (15.7), and took second in the SWC with a 12-4 mark.
Texas received a No. 11 seed and played Georgia Tech in Dallas, its first tournament game since 1979. The Longhorns beat the Yellow Jackets 76-70 before falling to third-seeded Missouri in the next round. The following year, much of the team returned and made it all the way to the Elite Eight.
Fresh off an NIT championship the year before, Abe Lemons’s Longhorns went 21-8 to clinch their first tournament berth since 1973-74. Tyrone Branyan (18.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jim Krivacs (17.6 ppg) led the team that won the SWC regular season with a 13-3 record.
Interestingly, in a 32-team field, No. 5 seed Texas got paired against Oklahoma in the first round in Dallas. The Sooners won 90-76.