In Texas, the arrival of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments can only mean one thing—spring football is here!

Kidding. Obviously, the days of Texas not being a basketball state are well behind us, even if Jones Ramsey’s quote that the only sports in Texas are football and spring football will never truly die.

As recently as 2013, Texas had zero teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Since then, Texas Tech (2019), Houston (2021), and Baylor (2021) have made the Final Four, with Baylor becoming the state’s first team to win it all since Texas Western (now UTEP) in 1966.

And of course, Texas has been much more of a women’s basketball state, with Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Baylor all winning national championships and Kim Mulkey’s Bears being one of the sport’s signature programs over the past two decades.

But things could always be better. On the men’s side, Houston, which has now been to the Final Four six times, is still aiming for its first title. Last year the University of Texas fell just short of its first Final Four since the days of T. J. Ford. A&M women’s coaching legend Gary Blair retired in 2022, and Baylor fans had to watch Mulkey win a championship last season as the coach of LSU. With a total of eleven teams from the state in the men’s and women’s tournaments this year, here are the essential questions for Texas college hoops fans.

What the Heck Is Longwood?

That would be the university from Farmville, Virginia, that’s standing in the way of Kelvin Sampson’s top-seeded Houston Cougars, at least for a few hours on Friday. The sixteenth-seed Lancers are making their second NCAA appearance in three years as champions of the Big South Conference, which has a 4–31 record in the tournament, with Winthrop (1–11) its most frequent representative.

The Cougars are one of three teams with the shortest odds to win it all, behind defending champion UConn and ahead of Purdue. Anything less than a seventh Final Four appearance would be disappointing. They won’t sleep on this one.

Can Texas Finally Win It All?

The Longhorns women, that is.

Texas native Vic Schaefer came to Austin from Mississippi State with two Final Four trips on his résumé, including what is still perhaps the greatest tournament upset (and game!) of all time: the Bulldogs’ semifinal win over UConn in 2017. That put an end to the Huskies’ streak of 111 wins and four straight championships, but it was head coach Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks who cut down the nets that year.

So Schaefer is still looking for a ring, and so are the storied Longhorns, who dominated a very different women’s basketball landscape under program-builder Jody Conradt, with the school’s only tournament title coming in 1986. A perennial Southwest Conference champ, UT only won the Big 12 three times (twice in the regular season, once in the conference tournament) between 1997 and 2020.

So far, Schaefer has done what he was hired to do. Two Elite Eight appearances. Three Big 12 titles (twice in the conference tournament, once in the regular season). And, prayers up, a 3–7 record against Baylor (that may not sound impressive, but Schaefer’s predecessor, Karen Aston, was 1–18 against the Bears).

The Horns went out in the second round as a four seed last year, but they come into the 2024 tournament as a top seed, along with South Carolina, Iowa, and USC. They’ve won twelve of their last thirteen games and survived an early season-ending injury to All-American guard Rori Harmon, with forward Madison Booker becoming the first freshman to be named Big 12 player of the year.

The Longhorns’ first two tournament games will be at the Moody Center, so to fall short of the Sweet Sixteen again would be almost unthinkable. Make the Elite Eight, and UT is projected to meet two-seed Stanford (which some say should have had the top spot). And in the Final Four? If chalk holds, the Longhorns’ first opponent would be Staley and tournament favorite South Carolina. Call it déjà vu times two for Schaefer.

Who’s Cinderella?

With no Texas men’s team seeded lower than number nine (TCU and A&M), we’ll let the women have this dance (ugh, it’s probably time to do away with the entire metaphor).

Congratulations to head coach Royce Chadwick and sixteen-seed Texas A&M–Corpus Christi, who will make their first-ever appearance in the women’s NCAA tournament. If the Islanders can beat the USC Trojans and all-world freshman Juju Watkins, there should be free Whataburgers for everyone.

Rice, however, is arguably an even bigger Cinderella. The Owls finished the regular season with five straight losses before upsetting four higher-seeded teams to win the American Athletic Conference tournament. Coach Lindsay Edmonds and the fourteen-seed Owls will, deliciously, be facing Kim Mulkey and defending national champion LSU, which enters this year’s tournament as a three seed after lots (and lots!) of tumult. The only folks who might enjoy an upset more than Rice alums are Baylor fans. Maybe Texas fans, too.

Think the Owls are excited?

Why Are They Telling Aggie Jokes in Nebraska?

Nebraska and Texas A&M might have been forever linked as realignment buddies, as the Huskers’ decision to move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten in 2010 set the stage for Aggies to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. But since Nebraska has basically stunk in football since then, and A&M is about to be in the same place as the University of Texas all over again, it’s almost like that never happened.

Which is to say: it’s not a rivalry.

But then Trev Alberts came along. The Huskers football legend had been Nebraska’s athletic director since 2021, a tenure that went so well the school decided to extend his contract through 2031. But last week, he left Nebraska to become Texas A&M’s athletic director. Yes, there was a buyout; perhaps you’ve heard the Aggies don’t mind paying those.

“Trev Alberts is a traitor,” Chris Peterson of the website Husker Big Red wrote, while also worrying that Huskers football coach Matt Rhule might someday follow. “In a few years, if Mike Elko fails at Texas A&M, you know Trev Alberts’ first call would be to Matt Rhule.” As if the Aggies would tolerate hiring a former coach of Baylor!

Then, when the NCAA brackets came out Sunday evening, Texas A&M and Nebraska found themselves matched up in the first rounds of both tournaments. Who says those selection-committee panjandrums don’t have a sense of humor?

“We’re not playing the athletic director,” Nebraska forward Rienk Mast said. “We’re playing the men’s basketball team.” How sensible. But the team’s initial reaction showed a little more emotion.

These are not exactly teams that need extra motivation. The A&M men haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2018, and the Huskers, who have never won an NCAA game, last made it to the Big Dance in 2014. Nebraska’s women have also been winless in March Madness since 2014—though they’ve at least shown up three times since then—while A&M is in the tournament for the first time since Blair’s retirement.

What’s the Best Non–NCAA Tournament Game?

Well, if you’re a Sicko, you already skipped the “First Four” on Tuesday night to watch the Postseason Tournament (CIT for short). That’s the third-tier bracket below the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) and the more historic and prestigious National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

Four Texas men’s teams—Tarleton State, Texas Southern, Abilene Christian, and Texas A&M–Corpus Christi—have already finished playing in the CIT’s Lou Henson Classic. The Texans (that would be Tarleton State) are the team that came out of the Henson, and they will next host Purdue University Fort Wayne (which won the Jim Phelan Classic) in the CIT semifinals.  

The women’s game is also rife with consolation events. The NCAA has started the 32-team Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT), leaving the privately run WNIT (Women’s National Invitation Tournament) to take what’s left. TCU will host North Texas in the first round of the WBIT on Thursday night, hoping to continue what has been a storybook season for the Horned Frogs, even if that story included being derailed from what once seemed like a certain journey to the Big Dance. Mark Campbell’s team survived its spate of injuries and an open call for walk-ons to win five of its last seven games, with leading scorers Sedona Prince (yes, the very same, now at her third school as a graduate transfer) and Madison Conner returning to the lineup.

Does Anyone Miss Chris Beard or Mark Adams?


The former UT and Texas Tech head coach and the former Texas Tech head coach are not missed in Austin or Lubbock, where both their tenures ended in ignominy (Beard lost his job after being arrested for domestic violence, while Adams resigned voluntarily after making a racially insensitive comment).

Then–interim head coach Rodney Terry led UT all the way to the Elite Eight last season, and while the team went just 9–9 in the Big 12 this year, the seven-seed Longhorns still might make some noise if they can get past Colorado State in the first round. Texas Tech, meanwhile, bounced back from its mess of a 2023 season to come in as a six seed under first-year head coach Grant McCasland, formerly of North Texas.

Is the Women’s Tournament Better?

Probably. There’s probably no reason to compare the two events. Instead, compare the state of women’s college hoops today to in 2021, when former Texas and Oregon player Sedona Prince’s TikTok blew open discussion of inequality between the tournaments. Since then, there have been reforms both large and small (among the small ones: Baylor’s team is no longer the “Lady” Bears).

There’s less parity and fewer upsets in the women’s tournament. But you also get to follow truly dominant teams and dynasties. The main reason the women’s game in 2024 has so much more momentum (and slightly higher TV ratings) than the men’s game is star power. No player in college basketball is bigger than Caitlin Clark right now, and her 2023 tournament foil, Angel Reese, is right behind her. So is Watkins. Perhaps by this time next week, Booker will have joined them.

Whereas in the men’s game right now, try naming the school each of this season’s first-team All-Americans plays for: R. J. Davis, Zach Edey, Dalton Knecht, Tristen Newton, and Jamal Shead.