Without question, Texas is a football-first state. But the state still has had its share of memorable college basketball moments in its history, although today’s Selection Sunday proceedings are not likely to be included on any historic lists.
Barring an absolute stunner of an at-large bid during this afternoon’s CBS selection show that reveals the 68-team field, there will be no men’s college basketball team from Texas included in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977.
That looms as an ill-timed Texas Shutout in a year when the NCAA Tournament will make regional stops in Austin (Friday-Sunday) and Arlington (March 29-31). But it’s reality and it’s been 36 years since the state’s college basketball fans found themselves without a Texas team to cheer in the annual Big Dance.
For the uninitiated, 1977 was an era when Jimmy Carter lived and worked in the White House, disco tunes and leisure suits were part of pop culture and Arkansas edged eight Texas-based schools for the Southwest Conference title. The NCAA Tournament field, in those days, included only 32 teams and the phrase “March Madness” had yet to surface.
But fans can expect the NCAA’s first Texas-free tournament bracket in 36 years to be released this afternoon (5 p.m., KTVT/Ch. 11).
The best hope for avoiding a shutout would be an at-large berth for Baylor (18-14), an Elite Eight team in 2010 and 2012 that lost to Oklahoma State, 74-72, in its opening game at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
However, all signs point to the Bears winding up in the NIT, along with Stephen F. Austin (27-4), the Southland Conference regular-season champ that fell to Northwestern (La.) State, 68-66, in Saturday’s conference championship game.
In terms of chronology, UTA (19-13) wound up being the last Texas team playing for a guaranteed NCAA berth in Saturday night’s championship game at the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas. But the Mavericks fell to New Mexico State, 64-55, and project as participants in the CBI Tournament.
_ Jimmy Burch