March Madness is in full swing, and the Lone Star state has two teams remaining in the quest for this year’s men’s basketball title.
Although the state’s 2023 glory is left to only the University of Houston and the University of Texas, multiple teams made the big dance and spotlighted hoops in the state. Football may be king in Texas, but basketball is bringing home the most bragging rights at the moment.
Could things be in line for a shift in the Lone Star state? Despite the fact that Texas sports betting is illegal, the odds are strong for Texas teams.
Texas teams versus the field
Including the First Four, Texas had seven teams to make the tournament: Baylor, Houston, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas A&M-CC and Texas Southern. California was second with five schools, and Iowa and North Carolina each had two. Texas and California had two schools reach the Sweet 16, but Houston at 4-1 has the highest odds to win the championship of the four teams.
University of Houston Cougars
The University of Houston was the favorite to win it all for most of the season until star guards Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead suffered injuries. Sasser’s injury caused him to miss the American Athletic Conference Championship game, which Houston dropped to Memphis. He returned in round one of the NCAA tournament to help Houston escape an upset against Northern Kentucky.
The Cougars appeared to return to form in the next round, pulling away late for a statement victory against Auburn. The Cougars match up next against Miami and have their hands full with the Hurricanes’ explosive offense. Miami shoots nearly 50% from the field and has four players averaging nearly 14 points or more per game. Houston’s defense must be at its best for the team to have a chance and continue to represent Texas in the quest for a national championship.
University of Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns captured the No. 1 ranking in the country for a brief moment earlier in the season. The team hit a few bumps since then and took a step back in expectations, but it significantly revived its championship aspirations in the latter part of the season. The Longhorns made a statement before March Madness started by defeating Kansas handily to win the Big 12 Conference championship.
The Big 12 was the toughest conference in the nation this year, and Texas proved it could compete with the best by taking home bragging rights. The momentum carried over to the NCAA tournament, helping it make it to the Sweet 16. Now, it faces its biggest test so far against the Xavier Musketeers.
The Musketeers were 11th in the country in scoring this year, averaging 81 points per game. They also have five players averaging double digits this season, four of whom are putting up at least 14 points per game. The Longhorns aren’t nearly as explosive, but like Houston, they are one of the premier defenses left in the tournament. They haven’t allowed a 70-point performance during March Madness, and they’ll need to do the same against Xavier to have a chance.
Texas’ past and present in the tournament
Texas has only two national titles: Texas Western (UTEP) in 1966 and Baylor in 2021. The big schools haven’t fared well over the years, so a lot rides on the two remaining teams.
- UH: Six appearances in 20 years (zero championships)
- Texas A&M: Nine appearances in the past 20 years (six second-round or earlier exits and zero championships)
- Baylor: 11 appearances in the past 20 years (one championship: 2021)
- Texas: 16 appearances in the past 20 years (zero championships)
- TCU: Three appearances in the past 20 years (zero championships)
If Houston or Texas can capture the championship this year, that would be two national basketball titles in the past three years for the state. That would be the most success Texas has had on the collegiate level in basketball or football in the past 20 years. The growing success of college basketball in the state could soon swing the notoriety of Texas’ sports prowess to basketball if the current trend continues.