A lucky 13?
Eyes of Texas no more: Houston steals NCAA Tournament spotlight from Austin &those Longhorns
Forget about The Eyes of Texas.
The eyes of the nation are on the University of Houston. That's right ... Houston.
The University of Houston pulled an end-around or perhaps, more appropriately a back screen, on that powerful, national program from Austin — the one that grossed the highest amount of athletic revenue in the country last year (a cool $120.3 million). For when CBS unveiled the NCAA Tournament field in its much-anticipated (and highly rated) selection show, it put a national camera crew in Houston to record the reactions of those sudden-national-darling Cougars and their coach who has been pulled off job life support.
Austin, UT and Rick Barnes ... they're barely being mentioned in the national sports conversation this evening.
Sometimes, it really is better to be an ultimate underdog 13th seed (Houston's fate for its first round NCAA game Friday against Maryland, a 4th seed from the ACC) than an 8th seed that's proven itself to be just part of the pack in a powerhouse league (Texas' situation for its first round Thursday tourney matchup with 9th-seed Wake Forest).
"Houston — with everything that's swirling around Tom Penders — is one of those teams that everyone will talk about going into the first round," CBS commentator Seth Davis said.
The Cougars are the Cinderella with a great backstory. They didn't just go from complete afterthought to Conference USA champion in the span of four days, making the tournament the only longshot way they could (with an automatic bid). They did it even as the University of Houston made plans to put their old coach out to pasture.
Tom Penders (64 years old and showing every bit of it much of this season) hasn't been in the big dance since 1999, a drought that's at least in the same ballpark as the one the school he's coaching has suffered through. It's been 18 years since Houston played on college basketball's biggest stage.
Many people in Houston today wouldn't even know what you're talking about if you mentioned Phi Slama Jama — let alone remember those high-flying glory days.
Texas, on the other hand, is a team that makes the NCAA Tournament every year (12 straight now) — and a very disappointing version of that traditional power at that.
Which would you rather root for?
No wonder why Houston guards Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis were jumping around on camera while Penders politely clapped for the national show. No wonder why Texas was mentioned about as much as Sam Houston State.
Even athletic bullies sometimes get their comeuppance.