The most important annual meeting is against Kansas. Geographically, it doesn’t make sense with the Jayhawks from the Midwest and the Longhorns from the South. Historically, it doesn’t make sense because the programs have more established rivalries and didn’t begin playing each other regularly until the 1996-1997 season.
As of the 2011-2012 season, the programs have played a home-and-home against each other in the Big 12’s round-robin system. Kansas is the class of the conference with 15 conference titles in 18 seasons, and every conference opponent, including Texas, strives for their success. The Longhorns measure their success against the Jayhawks in their yearly meetings.
No college student likes waking up early on a Saturday, but that was not the case for the Longhorn student body this weekend. They arrived early for the sellout.
Spirits were high heading into the highly anticipated matchup with #11 Kansas. Burnt orange fans were hopeful that a win would return the program to the early season heights, when their team was ranked #6 in the country. But, the home fans were left dissatisfied for the second time in three years. After a promising start, the Horns were derailed by the lack of defensive efficiency in the final seven minutes and lost 75-62. It reminded fans of the 11 point Longhorn lead that was erased at home in 2013.
You’re not going to win every game, but matchups like this separate contenders from pretenders, and elite college basketball programs from the wannabes. There’s a reason why Texas is not Kansas and the Longhorns are not the Jayhawks.
Kansas’ success should be modeled. Notable names, such as Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self, followed in the footsteps of the program’s first head coach and the sport’s founder, James Naismith. They coached players, such as Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning and Paul Pierce to the Jayhawks’ most notable accomplishments.
Kansas is regularly ranked atop the nation’s polls and a perennial national championship contender because they have a successful resume. They have the most conference championships (57) between their time in the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association/Big Six/Big Seven/Big Eight and the Big 12. They also have the most winning seasons (96) and non-losing seasons (99) in Division 1 history. They lead the nation with 25 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and their 31 consecutive winning seasons is the second longest current streak to Syracuse’s 43. They’ve won three national championships and rank fourth all-time with 43 NCAA Tournament bids.
Texas Longhorns basketball has a history of successful seasons but it has not matched the success of their conference foe, the Kansas Jayhawks. The likes of Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford and LaMarcus Aldridge made their names on the 40 Acres and are the faces of the program since the turn of the century.
Texas basketball can be compared to Oklahoma State football. They’re both programs that are regular contenders for the conference championship and finish in the top half of the league standings, but are not considered elite inside the Big 12, because they normally fall short of the ultimate goal.
The Longhorns regularly visit the NCAA tournament, with the 11th most appearances in Division 1 history. They have the second-most tournament victories without a national championship (35) behind their three Final Four appearances and seven Elite Eight appearances.
The Longhorns attract some of the world’s best talent and have competitive seasons. But somehow they always come up short in March, whether it is not winning the Big 12 Tournament, or the national championship in their best seasons.
To change their fortunes, the Longhorns need to reach for the stars and take a play out of the Jayhawks’ playbook.