It took 24 games and 20 minutes but Rick Barnes was finally satisfied, wait, strike that, almost giddy, with the way his Texas team played on both ends of the floor.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Barnes said after Texas’ 75-64 win over Kansas State. “And I sat there in the second half and enjoyed it.
“I love teams that get after people on the defensive end and I love teams that attack on the offensive end. They are in a constant attack mode and that is what we have told our team since they have been here.”
Texas will have to be on the attack as it goes down the stretch. With the current three-game winning streak, Texas (16-9, 6-6) has now pulled to .500 in the Big 12. If Texas can remain at .500 or better through the remaining six games, odds are it will make it into the NCAA tournament for the 14th straight year.
Here is the schedule down the stretch and what Texas’ chances are in each of those games:
Oklahoma (13-11, 3-9): Texas will play the Sooners twice beginning with a game Tuesday night in Norman. Two of the Sooners’ three Big 12 wins have come against Kansas State so there is little doubt Lon Kruger’s group has the ability to pull an upset over Texas. Oklahoma has lost four straight. One of those was by three to No. 4 Missouri. But Missouri seems to play a lot of close games. So that game might be more of an indictment of Missouri than an endorsement of OU’s style of play.
The one OU player Texas will have to watch for is guard Steve Pledger. The junior is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc and much like Texas’ J’Covan Brown, can get hot. But Pledger struggles finding his shot outside of the offensive sets. That should help Texas’ defense.
Chances of a sweep: 80 percent
Oklahoma State (12-13, 5-7): Texas had some trouble with the Cowboys the first time around before finally putting together a run in the second half to win by 10. But this game is on the road, and the Cowboys have proven to be difficult at home with wins over No. 4 Missouri and Iowa State in the past two weeks.
Oklahoma State gives Texas trouble on the inside because of the length of the interior players -- LeBryan Nash and Michael Cobbins. Both are very good leapers and shot blockers. Texas center Clint Chapman struggles with his back to the basket against those types of players.
On the perimeter, Keiton Page is a shooter, but Texas held him to nine points last time around. The Texas perimeter defense has been better as of late, and given the fact Alexis Wangmene is playing more physical on the inside, it might even allow for more pressure on the perimeter from the guards.
Chance of winning: 50 percent
Baylor (22-4, 9-4): The Bears are reeling after two straight losses. But both those losses were against top 10 teams. Still the zone defense of the Bears has been exposed. There is no doubt Texas has been picking apart the film from both those gems and figuring out just what it can do to find holes in the zone.
And there are holes to be found. Perry Jones III is long but does not want to mix it up inside. In fact, most of the toughness on the Bears comes from the smallest player on the floor, Pierre Jackson. Jackson is a very good penetrator but Texas held him to seven points and forced five turnovers last time around.
Because this is a home game for Texas, and because the Longhorns had some success against Baylor, this could be the best chance they have to pull off a big upset this season.
Chances of a win: 45 percent
Texas Tech (8-16, 1-11): Clearly the Red Raiders are the worst team in the Big 12 and one of the worst teams in a major conference. The issue is that Tech cannot find ways to score. The Red Raiders average on 61 points per game, which is 308th in Division I-A hoops. They also are one of the worst rebounding teams in the country (301st). Texas had little problem with the Red Raiders earlier this month at the Frank Erwin Center. This should be a game in which Texas gets its offense running smoothly and gets plenty of confidence for Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis.
Chances of a win: 90 percent
Kansas (21-5, 11-2): Talent eventually wins out. That much was clear when Texas went up three, 64-61 with less than three left at home against Kansas but still lost the game.
Texas has no way to match up with the post players Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey. On the outside, Tyshawn Taylor was not at all bothered by the Texas guards last time around. Taylor did not turn the ball over in more than 30 minutes of play.
Kansas does not have a deep bench so Texas’ only chance at beating the Jayhawks is to somehow get the players into foul trouble. If Myck Kabongo is aggressive off the bounce and gets into the lane, Texas has a chance to do that.
Chances of a win: 5 percent.