Out of Big 12, Texas looks to get right

In the Big 12 Conference games, the Texas Longhorns went 10-8. Out of conference they won 14 of 15. Maybe the start of the NCAA tournament will put the Horns back in their comfort zone.

At this point, they have little else to cling to.

"You’d like to win regular-season championships and tournament championships, but the bottom line is we talk about the NCAA championship, which is why we put so much emphasis on our non-league schedule and how important those games are in November," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "You’re going to be rewarded or not rewarded by what you do in the nonleague."

The jury will be out. Texas (24-9) certainly showed itself well in the nonconference, rolling to a 14-1 record, including wins over North Carolina, Michigan State, USC, Iowa, Pittsburgh and Arkansas. The lone loss came at Connecticut, one game after Kansas State handed Texas its first loss after a 17-0 start. Then everything unraveled.

Having dropped all the way to a No. 8 seed (the second-lowest of the seven Big 12 teams in the tournament -- Missouri is No. 10), Texas will at least stay close to home, opening the tournament Thursday in what should be fan-friendly New Orleans against No. 9 Wake Forest, a team that's nosedived over the past three weeks, losing five of six. So two struggling teams will do battle for the right to face No. 1 Kentucky. The Wildcats will tune up with No. 16 East Tennessee State.

Texas is moving forward with the belief that every team is operating with a clean slate, zero-and-zero.

"Anyone can win it. There are 65 teams going out there with a shot to win the national championship," senior forward Damion James said. "It’s give a little, take a little, so you’ve got to be ready to go out and give it all or nothing."

Which is exactly what Texas' season has been about to this point.