AUSTIN, Texas -- Desperation can make for strange bedfellows.
That said, the pillow talk between Texas' Rick Barnes and Oklahoma's Lon Kruger is about just who is more desperate.
For Barnes, there is the streak of 13 straight NCAA tournament bids possibly coming to an end. For Kruger, well, he is desperate just to get something, anything, going with what has been a moribund program since Blake Griffin left following a second-round NCAA loss in 2008.
"We just have to keep working and battling," said Kruger.
It's a battle yell that has turned into a whimper during the Big 12 season. Oklahoma is 4-12 headed into the last week of the regular season. The only possible things left to fight for, and really savor, would be a win over Texas (18-11, 8-8) Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center, thereby knocking the Longhorns out of the NCAA Tournament, and a final win over Texas A&M before it leaves for the SEC.
Of the two, the Texas win clearly would cause a little more, albeit brief, chest thumping. After all, a program that allowed Texas Tech its only conference win should not be celebrating much of anything.
But as bad as Oklahoma was against Tech, it was equally impressive against Kansas State (twice) and in a narrow loss to Missouri. Both are NCAA Tournament teams. Both had trouble with OU.
The trouble with OU is consistency.
"We have to be more consistent defensively, try to limit second-shot opportunities and transition opportunities and do things on our end and knock down some shots," said Kruger about a winning formula. "That is simple view of it. But many of our games have come down to that."
Hmm ... sounds eerily familiar.
"We are just not consistently where we want to be," Barnes said.
See, told you.
Texas' lack of consistency has led to eight losses by less than two possessions. Of the eight losses, four came to teams in the top 10 -- Baylor (twice), Missouri and Kansas; two locks for the tournament -- Kansas State and Iowa State; a bubble team in N.C. State and a mediocre Oregon State team. The only two teams Texas has beaten in crunch time were Texas A&M and Tech, the two last place teams in the Big 12.
Still, at least according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi, Texas is on the inside looking out when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. A loss to Oklahoma would leave the Longhorns on the outside, looking at the NIT.
That's because Kansas is next up on the schedule. The game is in Lawrence, Kan. The Jayhawks are playing as well as anyone in the country. And while Texas pulled off a win over KU there last season, largely because of J'Covan Brown's 23 points, Brown doesn't quite have the supporting cast he used to have.
So maybe it is Texas that is more desperate for a win Wednesday night. A win and the Longhorns will secure a season sweep over OU, a .500 or better Big 12 record and a possible NCAA bid.
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation
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