For the second year in a row, Texas missed out on a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament despite winning the Big 12 regular season conference title.
The Longhorns earned the fifth overall seed in this year’s postseason tournament, just one spot short of the coveted top four. Stanford, Minnesota, Illinois and BYU nabbed the top four seeds, respectively, with Texas on the outside looking in.
“We thought we were deserving of the four-seed,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We feel it’s a good seed, we’re not disappointed at all and we’ll put our best foot forward here.”
Texas’ seeding still means it will be able to host the first two rounds of the tournament, with games against Stephen F. Austin and a potential matchup with either Texas State or Rice.
The Lumberjacks come into Thursday’s matchup with an impressive 32–3 record, currently riding a 29-game win streak. SFA and Rice are two teams unfamiliar to the Longhorns, despite in-state proximity.
“I don’t know anything about anybody right now,” Elliott said. “We will download (their tape) tonight and have film by tomorrow morning.”
As of late, the Longhorns have been able to hit their stride. They’re on a 10-game win streak, tearing through the remainder of their conference slate after a loss at Kansas. While it might seem innocuous, Texas’ loss to Kansas hurt its chances at a top-four seed the most.
BYU, who beat out Texas for the fourth seed, sports a 27–1 record, including a five-set win over No. 1 overall seed Stanford. Texas dropped two games to Stanford earlier this season, and an uncharacteristic loss to Kansas gave the Cougars’ résumé an edge.
However, Texas has its sights set on Thursday’s game against SFA. After being in a similar situation last year heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Longhorns will look to use last year’s experience to find a way to win — especially with a much younger core in tow this time around.
“Being away last year actually taught us to be uncomfortable in our environment,” libero Claire Hahn said. “We haven’t been home in a year so now we’re a little more used to it.”
Texas will play host to SFA on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Gregory Gym. If the Longhorns win, they will face the winner of Rice vs. Texas State on Friday at 8 p.m.