June 15, 2024


Digitally first class

Texas awarded No. 6 seed, will play No. 11 Virginia Tech in first round of NCAA Tournament


Since he was introduced as the new head coach of Texas men’s basketball, Chris Beard has had his sights set on making the NCAA Tournament championship game in year one.

“This program is a Monday night program,” Beard said back when he was hired in early April 2021.

While there isn’t a whole lot of buzz about the prospect of Texas making it that far, the Longhorns are more than capable of making some noise this March. Now, they know the path they must take — and it’s a difficult one.

No. 6 Texas (21-11) will face No. 11 seed and ACC champion Virginia Tech (23-12) in Milwaukee on Friday. The Longhorns were selected to play in a stacked Eastern region that includes No. 1 seed Baylor, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Purdue, and No. 4 UCLA.

Should the Longhorns advance past the first round, they would play the winner of Purdue vs. No. 14 Yale.

Here are three Texas takeaways from Selection Sunday:

Nightmare first round draw

Not only was Texas handed a brutal first-round challenge in Virginia Tech, but the East region is loaded with Final Four contenders. Beard knows just how challenging every game in the tournament is, especially going up against coach Mike Young’s Hokies.

“Any team in the tournament is good. I tell the guys all year long, you’re gonna have to play really good teams in the tournament,” Beard said. “We have a really tough challenge in the first game, got a lot of respect for [Young] and his team.”

Virginia Tech heads into the tournament on fire. The Hokies took down Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke on their way to a first ACC Tournament championship win in school history.

And they beat Duke in style, sinking 10 3-pointers and winning by 15 in the championship game.

Beard considers Young a friend, and said he has has watched his fair share of Virginia Tech basketball this season.

“I’m kind of a college basketball junkie, so I probably have watched Virginia Tech play a dozen times this year.”

Looking for first NCAA Tournament win in 8 years

Beard’s success in March, and Texas’ lack of it, is the very reason why UT athletic director Chris Del Conte decided to part ways with former Longhorn head coach Shaka Smart, and nab the ex-Texas Tech coach.

In Smart’s five seasons on the 40 Acres, Texas had three NCAA Tournament berths, and lost in the first round of all three. Last season, he led the Longhorns to a No. 3 seed, but shockingly fell to No. 14-seeded Abilene Christian in the first round.

In 2018, Smart’s Texas lost to Nevada as a No. 10 seed. In 2016, Smart was upset by No. 11-seeded Northern Iowa as a six-seed.

The start of a new era?

Now under Beard, there is an optimism that Texas isn’t the same team of old. The hope is that Beard has instilled a tougher mentality in this group, which will pay dividends when it counts the most.

If Beard so much as wins one tournament game — against the likes of a Virginia Tech — that will project well for the future of the program, as it heads beyond year one of its rebuild.


Texas head coach Chris Beard watches his team play against Kansas during the first half of...

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