As Regular Season Ends, Is There Any Hope For the Texas Longhorns Next Year?

Brendan Maloney: USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns regular season has mercifully come to an end with an overtime road win against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, but it’s a season that fans would love to quickly forget. Even before the season began, the program got word from the NCAA that their sophomore point guard and most experienced player, Myck Kabongo, would be forced to sit out the entire season due his accepting of illegal benefits. The team caught a bit of a break when his punishment was reduces, allowing him to return in mid-February, but by then the damage was already done.

Considering that this Texas team was the youngest team in country this year, most fans understood from the beginning that this would be a season for rebuilding and were willing to be patient. Yes, the team suffered a devastating loss to Div. II Chaminade early on, but bounced back and defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels and played several solid teams incredibly close, losing close games in the final minutes.

The problem, however, came when this young team didn’t show any signs of improvement heading into the second of the season.

In January, the Longhorns lost six out of seven games–their sole victory coming against the worst team in the Big 12 conference. February didn’t begin much better as they dropped first two games of the month.

However, the team appeared to turn a corner, albeit a small one, with their 2OT win over a solid Iowa State Cyclones team. It was the first time all season that the Longhorns were able to close out a game. All year long, they’d built up healthy leads late in the second half only to choke in final minutes.

Texas then went on to win five of their next eight games. Ok, I admit that this isn’t exactly outstanding, and sure, they didn’t defeat any great teams in that span, but regardless, they were able to pull off some strong wins, including a 22-point comeback against the Oklahoma Sooners and an overtime victory against the Baylor Bears.

While the season isn’t technically over for the Longhorns, as they still have the Big 12 tournament coming up this week, it would take a miracle tournament run for this team to make the postseason. Sadly, it appears that they will miss out on the Big Dance for the first time in fourteen years and just the third time in the last 24 seasons.

Yes, it was an ugly, ugly season; nevertheless, this young team, which appeared to have given up at one point, dug deep and at least gave fans a faint glimmer of hope for next season. Sure, it’s not a lot to go on, but it’s something. Of course, that hope hinges on Kabongo’s decision to return for one more season or enter the NBA Draft.

If he stays, this team has shown these last couple of weeks that they are capable of turning a corner next year; if he leaves…well, then fans could be in for another difficult season.

 

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