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After sharing Big 12 title this regular season, Texas heads to the conference tournament

Texas baseball coach David Pierce watches from the dugout during a 14-3 win over West Virginia on May 21. Pierce, this year's Big 12 coach of the year, plans to start staff ace Ty Madden on five days' rest in the Longhorns' opening game of the Big 12 Tournament.

While speaking to reporters this week, Texas baseball coach David Pierce admitted that he wouldn't mind it if the Big 12 got rid of its postseason tournament.

Pierce wasn't speaking after eating sour grapes. His Longhorns, after all, are the top seed in the annual conference tournament that got underway Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

Pierce just thinks they would be better off if they played an additional weekend series. That's how teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten are prepping for this year's NCAA tournament. And it's not like the Big 12 tournament is a big revenue generator for the conference. And, Pierce asked, since the regular season is so long, should lower-seeded teams have a chance to sneak into the NCAA postseason due to a strong showing?

"I think you have a potential to beat your team up going into a regional," added Pierce, the Big 12 coach of the year.

More:Big 12 baseball tournament: Meet Texas' possible opponents in Oklahoma City

But alas, the only place the Big 12 Tournament is going is to Arlington next year. And Texas (40-13) will open its postseason against either Kansas or West Virginia on Wednesday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

After going 17-7 in Big 12 play, second-ranked Texas shared the conference championship with TCU. So when it comes to the lineup, don't expect Pierce to stray too far from what's been working.

Texas pitcher Pete Hansen started only five Big 12 games this season, but league coaches still voted him in as an honorable mention selection on the All-Big 12 team.

Texas has started the same outfielders in each of its last seven conference games. With exceptions made for suspensions and an injury to Cam Williams, the infield has stayed mostly intact. Designated hitter Ivan Melendez earned all-conference honors on Monday.

On Tuesday, Texas also revealed its pitching plans for the tournament. Staff ace Ty Madden will start Wednesday's game. That lines up Tristan Stevens and Pete Hansen, if Texas is still playing in the double-elimination tournament, to follow.

More:How to watch Texas baseball in the Big 12 tournament

There had been a thought that Texas would have a committee of pitchers work on Wednesday since Madden pitched last Thursday. Pierce, though, felt comfortable starting Madden on five days' rest since he threw 101 pitches against West Virginia. Stevens was lifted a day later after 85 pitches.

"You could go with a No. 4 (starter) and bullpen it, but then you have the potential of beating your bullpen up," Pierce said. "I would much rather start with our No. 1 guy if he's ready and we feel like he's ready."

Madden is a potential first-round pick this summer and was the Big 12's pitcher of the year. Stevens leads the conference with his eight wins. Hansen pitched in only five conference games this season, but he still impressed league coaches enough to earn an honorable mention on the Big 12 honor team.

More:As Big 12 race heats up, Texas baseball no longer viewing its young relievers as freshmen

Boosted by a stable of young arms in its bullpen, Texas has a 2.93 ERA that ranks second nationally. Only four schools can claim a better WHIP than UT's mark of 1.16.

"(Iron sharpens iron is) the dynamic, that's what we have right now," Hansen said earlier this season. "That's the trust we have in one another. I love watching these guys compete and I love winning ball games. That's what we're doing."

Texas, though, can't just rely on those arms. In order to take the tournament title in Oklahoma City, Texas will need to win at least four games. It could play up to six times this week. Double-elimination formats are also used by the NCAA for regionals, super regionals and the College World Series.

If needed, Texas can turn to Kolby Kubichek, who was in the team's weekend rotation until earlier this month. Madden also said that teammates like Jared Southard and Drew Shifflet are eager to show what they can do.

"This staff is a lot deeper than people really see from the outside just because the people we use have been so good," Madden said. "I think overall this staff can compete with anybody in the country."

Under Pierce, the Longhorns' Big 12 Tournament success has varied. As the sixth seed in 2017, Texas reached the championship contest. The top seed a year later, Texas was upset in both of its games. UT didn't qualify for the event in 2019 and last year's tournament was canceled.

Texas hasn't been the last team standing at the Big 12 Tournament since 2015. The last team to claim the conference tournament title and at least a share of the regular season crown was Texas A&M in 2011.