Monday, March 06, 2006

Is It Enough To Get In? - Tech (long)

On Saturday afternoon, the Aggies traveled to the high plains of west Texas and put a gigantic beat-down on an already struggling Texas Tech team. In doing so they have in all likelihood also clinched a spot in the 2006 NCAA tournament.

The Aggies were heading directly into a textbook letdown situation on Saturday when they traveled to Lubbock to face the Red Raiders. They were coming off of an emotional win, over your biggest rival, on a last second shot, with postseason aspirations on the line, etc. etc. etc.

How did they manage to avoid the letdown? I think it all starts with the man at the top, Coach Gillispie.

From the moment the UT game went final he began saying one thing in particular that stood out to me in every interview I read and sound bite I heard. He repeatedly alluded to the fact that “We are not confused about what we are. We can not trick ourselves into believing we are something we’re not.”

He has also articulated numerous times “We have to go to practice tomorrow and get ready for our next biggest game.”

I think his being so grounded and focused has really rubbed off on the guys and played a huge role in allowing them to move past the Texas game so quickly.

The Aggies and Red Raiders got off to a quick start in Saturday’s game, trading buckets at
an untypical hurried pace for two teams notorious for their great defense.

None other than Marlon Pompey keyed the Aggies effort out of the gate. The dreadheaded
Canadian had 8 of the Aggies first 13 points and was not only scoring the basketball, he was also playing great interior defense against Tech’s frontcourt guys.

Much of Marlon’s success was generated from Tech choosing to double Joe on the block. Joe did a great job of finding guys for wide-open and uncontested looks all day long. The highlight play of the day had to have been when Joe made a no-look, behind the head, wraparound pass to a cutting Pompey for an easy lay-up. I wasn’t sure whether to cheer or laugh - I chose to do both.

With the game tight and the Aggies leading 24-23 with 5:45 left to play in the first half, we
witnessed an offensive explosion seldom seen out of the boys in Maroon and White.

The Aggies closed out the first half on a 17-4 run to take a commanding 41-27 lead into the
locker room. The run saw Josh Carter nail a couple of threes and Antanas Kavaliauskas joined the action as well by knocking down a couple of buckets.

The second half featured more of the same, as the good guys were able to push the lead to over 20 points on multiple occasions. They took their biggest lead of the day (23 points) at 71-48 with just over 7 minutes to play. Tech made two threes in the final minute of the game to make the 75-59 final score appear much closer than the game actually was.

I am pretty sure the win was the Aggie’s 7th in a row. Amazing.

This was undoubtedly the best all-around performance we have seen from the good guys this season. When all was said and done, they had 5 guys in double figures:
Pompey – 17
Jones – 14
Law – 14
Kavaliauskas – 11
Kirk – 11

Old Army also had their best day shooting the ball since the win at Iowa State back in January. They converted 50% of their shots in going 27-54 from the field.

They were also MUCH better at the free-throw line in making 15 of their 19 attempts (79%).

The victory over Tech allowed the Aggies to win 20 games in the regular season for the first time since the 1979-80 season. It is also the first time they have won 10 conference games (or even 9 for that matter) in the history of the Big 12.

Billy Gillispie has completely transformed the Aggie Basketball program in less than two full seasons. It’s even more amazing when you think that he is winning games with guys that, even by his own admission, are not nearly as athletic and talented as he would like.

Some quick hits:
- Acie Law did not have his best game scoring the basketball vs. Tech, but he did manage
to pull down a career high 9 rebounds.

- The 7 usual suspects (Kirk/Pompey/Law/Jones/Walker/Kavaliauskas/Carter) played 194
of the 200 minutes yesterday. Acie lead the way with 39 minutes.

- The Aggies only committed 16 fouls on Saturday.

- Since committing 32 fouls at Texas on February 4th, they have only averaged 18 per game
over the 7 game win streak. This was a big problem earlier in the year they seemed to
have fixed.

- Dominique Kirk was named to the Big 12 All-Underrated team.

- Antanas Kavaliauskas was named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer team.

- Acie Law was named Big 12 Player Of The Week for his performances in last week’s
games. In the two games, Law averaged 11.0 points, and 6.0 rebounds, with eight assists
and five steals. He is only the second Aggie to be named Big 12 POTW (Bernard King two
other occasions).

Bizarre Rotation of the Game – Same 7 guys, same rotations.

Bizarre Stat(s) of the Game - Not much stood out. The Aggies did manage to out
rebound the Raiders 38-28.

Looking Ahead:

OK – What did Saturday’s win in Lubbock do for the Aggies NCAA tournament hopes?

My heart says yes and my head says not yet.

I can’t imagine a team that has won 7 in a row, finished alone in 4th place, and compiled a
league record of 10-6 in a power conference like the Big 12 not getting in.

In every other year their league accomplishments would undoubtedly be enough, but this year the Big 12 has been labeled as weak by all accounts. Is the league as top heavy as they have been historically? No way. That shouldn’t change the fact that the Aggies are deserving of a spot in the big dance nor should it take some of the shine off of their accomplishments this season.

I think the reason my head is saying no at this point is that I have been listening to the “experts” on ESPN too much. They still will not make A&M a lock, and all indications are that they need to win one more on Friday in Dallas to secure their place and become a lock.

I don’t know that I agree with their assessment, but I cannot be entirely objective about the situation. My biased opinion is that Gillispie and the boys have done enough and that they will get in.

One major thing I don’t understand is how the Missouri Valley may get as many as 5 or 6 teams in the tournament. The MVC is much improved over year’s past and they do have some darn good teams in their league, but are they worthy of 5 or 6 spots?

The MVC is the 6th rated league in terms of RPI. Which league is rated 5th, just in-front of the “The Valley”? That’s right, the Big 12. If the 6th rated league is going to get 5 or 6 teams in, shouldn’t the 5th rated league get more than 3? You would think so, but who knows.

I also know this. Every year a team or two that are VERY deserving of a spot get screwed out of one. Wouldn’t it be just our luck that this year A&M is one of those teams?

I also wonder if the selection committee will take into consideration the fact that the Aggies are actually a pretty good story when you look at where they were projected to finish in the league. The league coaches picked the Aggies to finish 7th in their preseason survey behind Texas, OU, Kansas, OSU, Tech, and Iowa State.

Hopefully Bill Byrne will call all of his fellow AD’s that sit on the selection committee and at least let them know Texas A&M does in-fact have a basketball team and that they have had an amazing and deserving year. (The selection committee is comprised of various conference AD’s and league commissioners)

There is of course a simple solution to this problem - Just keep winning games and eliminate all doubt.

If they win on Friday, they are a 100% lock to get in. (In my highly biased opinion ofcourse.)

Final Big 12 Standings & Tournament Seeds
(Teams in Blue are on A&M’s side of the bracket.)
1. Texas 13-3 (co-champions)
2. Kansas 13-3 (co-champions)
3. Oklahoma 11-5
4. Texas A&M 10-6
5. Colorado 9-7
6. Nebraska 7-9
7. Oklahoma State 6-10
8. Texas Tech 6-10
9. Kansas State 6-10
10. Iowa State 6-10
11. Missouri 5-11
12. Baylor 4-12

Big XII Tournament Schedule.
Thursday - March 9

Game 1 - TTU vs. KSU – 11:30
Game 2 - CU vs. BU – 2:00
Game 3 - OSU vs. ISU – 6:00
Game 4 - NU vs. MU – 8:20

Friday - March 10
Game 5 - UT vs. TTU/KSU – 11:30
Game 6 - Texas A&M vs. CU/BU – 2:00
Game 7 - KU vs. OSU/ISU – 6:00
Game 8 - OU vs. NU/MU – 8:20

Saturday - March 11
Game 9 – Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner – 1:00
Game 10 – Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner – 3:20

Sunday - March 12
Game 11 – Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner – 2:00

The full bracket can be viewed here:

I am hopeful that I will be able to send a mini-update each evening from Dallas after we
get back from the games.

Carry on.



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