Published March 12, 2010
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The season that couldn't get any worse just did.
The Texas Longhorns, the same team that began the season with 17 consecutive victories and rose to No. 1 in the nation less than two months ago, lost to in-state Baylor.
For the third time this season and the fourth consecutive game overall.
It's difficult to fathom.
``It's real hard," Texas big man Dexter Pittman said about coming up short once again to Baylor. ``I'm going to have to deal with it the rest of my life."
Texas coach Rick Barnes had an inkling his team wasn't as good as its 17-0 record advertised, but he had no clue what was in store.
No one could have written this script.
Since the victory against Texas A&M on Jan. 16, the Longhorns are 7-9.
If the season were a few weeks longer, we'd probably be including Texas in our "Bubble Watch" each night.
There have been losses at UConn, Oklahoma and the trifecta against Baylor in the stretch.
``It is what it is," Barnes said after the 86-67 loss in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday night. ``If I could have already figured it out, I would have fixed it."
It has been a train wreck.
You can talk all you want about how the loaded Big 12 took no prisoners this season -- which is what Kansas State coach Frank Martin and numerous other coaches in the league have attempted to do when defending the Longhorns' recent slide.
You'll hear how the starting backcourt from the start of the season -- Dogus Balbay and Varez Ward -- are both out with season-ending injuries.
Both are legit excuses.
But the bottom line is this team did the ultimate nose-dive.
Two of the three highly touted freshmen, Jordan Hamilton and J'Covan Brown, have been a mess on the defensive end and difficult for Barnes to play.
There has been virtually no leadership.
``It's obvious that we haven't stayed together," Barnes said.
No point guard.
A lack of basketball IQ.
The Longhorns have been unable to consistently score.
The pieces just haven't fit together. The team's top offensive players can't guard anyone, and the ones who can really defend are unable to score.
``It's tough," Brown said. ``Seeing this team go down night after night. It's not us. We've got to get it together."
``We're going to figure it out," fellow freshman guard Avery Bradley said.
But the Longhorns have effectively run out of time and are down to their last opportunity.
The swagger is long gone. Pittman isn't jumping around like an oversized teddy bear with the wide-eyed grin these days, and Damion James has become just another player.
No one is scared of the guys from Austin anymore. They are vulnerable.
``It all happened so quick," Texas forward Gary Johnson said. ``I can't even explain it."
The good news is Texas will start next week the same as just about every other team in the NCAA tournament.
With a clean slate.
``We're still promised one game," Johnson said.
But can the Longhorns come down with a case of amnesia and forget what's happened over the past eight or so weeks?
Instead of fighting for an overall seed, as they were thinking about a couple months ago, now the Longhorns could end up seeing a top seed in the second round of the Big Dance.
Just imagine a Texas vs. Kentucky matchup on the first Saturday of the NCAA tournament.
Who would have thought?
No one, but now it could be a reality.