Horns Illustrated

Men’s basketball draws No. 3 seed, faces Abilene Christian in NCAA opener

College World Series
The Texas Longhorns will face 7-foot redshirt senior Kolton Kohl and the Abilene Christian Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Championship (photo courtesy of acusports.com).

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Texas men’s basketball team’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship title boosted the Longhorns to the No. 3 seed in the East Region, CBS Sports and Turner Sports announced Sunday. The No. 13/16 Longhorns (19-7, 11-6 Big 12) will tip off their NCAA Tournament run Saturday against No. 14 seed Abilene Christian (23-4 overall, 13-2 league) at Lucas Oil Stadium in an 8:50 p.m. game that will be televised nationally by truTV.

The NCAA tournament appearance will be the 35th in program history for UT.

The Longhorns enter the NCAA tournament riding a five-game winning streak; all games in the streak were played on the road or in neutral venues. Abilene Christian enters the tournament having won four straight, and 12 of its last 13 games.

The Wildcats head to the NCAA tournament after winning their second consecutive Hercules Tire Southland Conference Tournament title, hammering Nicholls in Saturday’s final, 79-45 at the Leonard E. Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.

Abilene Christian is a stingy defensive team, leading the nation in turnovers forced (20.46 per game) and turnover margin (6.7), and ranking in the top eight of five other categories. The Wildcats have allowed their opponents 60.5 points per game, and teams have shot an even 40.0 percent from the floor against ACU, including a 30.6 percent mark from beyond the three-point line.

The Wildcats are as deliberate and methodical on the offensive end as they are combative on the defensive end. Three players have averaged double figures in scoring this season, but 7-foot center Kolton Kohl leads the offense with a modest 12.3 points per game, connecting on 52.4 percent of his field goals and 71.0 percent of his free throws.

The other ACU players averaging more than 10 points per game are 6-8 forward Joe Pleasant (10.8 points per game) and 6-0 guard Coryon Mason (10.7 points per game). Pleasant also is the Wildcats’ top rebounder, at 5.4 per game.

Basketball fans hear the name “Reggie Miller” and think of the former NBA star who could fill up three-pointers from every corner of the gym, ACU’s Miller is a diminutive (6-0, 150-pound) point guard who has handed out a team-high 118 assists (4.4 per game).

Not surprisingly, the Wildcats generate a lot of turnovers — 547 (20.3 per game) this season, while giving it back to their opponents 374 times (13.9 per game). They amassed 268 (9.9 per game) steals during the season, compared to 179 (6.6) by their opponents. Their top thieves have been guards Miller (54 steals) and Damien Daniels (52).

This year’s tournament is the fifth since the NCAA adopted a 64-team field in 1985 in which the Longhorns have earned a No. 3 or higher seed, and the first since 2008.

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