Sweet 16 Preview: The Texas Longhorns

Five teams from Texas entered last week. Just one emerged from the crowd to make it to the Sweet 16: The Texas Longhorns.

Let's quickly preview what this weekend could look like for Texas.

Sweet 16: Texas vs Ohio State

The Longhorns take on the Buckeyes on Friday.

How Texas got here

Vic Schaefer's team played good defense in the first two rounds, beating Fairfield 70-52 and then Utah 78-56.

Being able to hound opponents has been a key reason why Texas has had success lately. The Horns have won 13 in a row and have held their last three opponents — including Baylor! — to under 60 points. The offense, which has worried me at times this season, has looked good lately. Even Aaliyah Moore has gotten going, scoring in double figures in three consecutive games after having just one double-figure scoring game all season.

How Ohio State got here

After sneaking out a 63-56 win over Missouri State in the first round, Ohio State dominated LSU in the second round, winning 79-64 in a game that didn't really feel that close. Kim Mulkey's Tigers overachieved this season, and the Buckeyes exploited the holes in the team.

Overall, Ohio State ranks sixth in scoring offense and 20th in margin per game. The team's issues have been on the other side. Her Hoop Stats has the team at 101st in the country in defensive rating. But this is a team that shoots 37.6 percent from three and can outscore anyone.

Why Texas will win

The fact that the Ohio State defense isn't very good means that the path to a Texas win is pretty simple: play your normal defense and make the shots you've been making.

If Texas plays like Texas has played over the past month, Texas is winning this game. I'm not going to do any kind of devil's advocate here. If Texas plays its best basketball, Texas will win. 

Why Ohio State will win

Ohio State wins if the Texas offense struggles. There have been efficiency gaps at times with this team. Rori Harmon shot under 40 percent this season. Aliyah Matharu was incredibly consistent from deep, but shot 44.3 percent on twos. Aaliyah Moore has been great lately, but do we trust that three-game sample vs. her full season numbers?

If Texas struggles to get going offensively, Ohio State can take advantage. Make some threes. Push the pace off of misses and get transition buckets. Texas has to be firing on all cylinders. I could easily see this being a game where the Buckeyes get off to a fast start and lead by 14-5 early, with Texas then struggling to claw back. Again, if Texas plays like it has been, the Horns will win, but there's serious upset potential if the offense gets off to a sluggish start.

 

Elite Eight: Texas vs Stanford or Maryland

Let's say Texas gets past Ohio State. After that, they'd meet the winner of Stanford and Maryland

How Texas matches up with Stanford

Let's not just fall into the "well, Texas beat Stanford earlier this season so they'll win again" trap. There are reasons why Texas could beat the Cardinal again, but there's also reason to wonder if Texas would be able to get the upset again.

Yes, the Texas defense held Stanford to 56, well below its average of 74.4 points per game. But that was before Hannah Jump has really cracked the rotation. It was a game where Lexie and Lacie Hull were both in foul trouble. Cameron Brink took just three shots.

In other words, it wasn't a very Stanford game for Stanford.

Attribute much of that to how Texas played, sure. But don't expect a repeat of that performance. Stanford will score more in a rematch. That offense is simply too good for Texas to stop it twice. If the Horns want another upset win, Rori Harmon will have to play at another level. Matharu will need to hit four threes. The supporting cast will need to make all th open looks. A Texas win over Stanford in the Elite Eight would have to look a lot more like a Texas offense-led victory than the defense-led one earlier in the season.

How Texas matches up with Maryland

If Maryland gets past Stanford, Texas would have an easier path to the Final Four.

Maryland's still a really good team, but while the offense can help them win any game, the defense isn't Stanford-level defense.

Offensively, the Terps are fifth in the country in scoring. Defensively, they're 238th in scoring defense and 198th in defensive rating.

A Texas/Maryland meeting is like a Texas/Ohio State meeting, except the Longhorns have less margin for error on the defensive side. Offensively, I'd trust this Horns team to put up points on Maryland, but I think the multi-dimensional offensive attack of Angel Reese, Ashley Owusu, Diamond Miller, Chloe Bibby and Katie Benzan is so hard to stop. Texas would need near-perfect offensive execution to keep up with Maryland in that one, but the defense they'd be facing would make that a comparatively easy task vs. what it would take against Stanford.

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