COLLEGE STATION — Being a fan of Texas A&M basketball must be a roller coaster — both mentally and physically. The anticipation builds before the up and down emotions fill the season, making fans wonder if this team is real or just another issue.
But like any roller coaster, it's a smooth cruise to close out the ride. Consider the final stretch the ride itself while Auburn and Arkansas are the cruising part. With a win over the No.17 Tigers and the Razorbacks, the Aggies (16-14, 10-8 SEC) will have momentum heading into the SEC Tournament.
But more importantly, they will have time to relax and better set for Nashville. The Aggies will enter Thursday's game as the No.7 seed, five places higher than voters expected them to be at the start of the season.
“The work of those guys. That has been the reward," A&M coach Buzz Williams said Saturday afternoon. "‘Buzz, did you think you were going to win 10 [SEC] games?’ No. It never crossed my mind. What crossed my mind was, we have a lot of work to do. What are we going to do tomorrow? Man, we’ve got some more work."
The Aggies will potentially face a trio of Tigers to make the championship round of the tournament — perhaps the only way to make the big dance. That journey will begin in their favor before gradually moving up a level to face the next both on the cage of carnivorous programs.
A&M will take on Missouri for the third time this season Friday. The Tigers (15-16, 7-11 SEC) finished their season off on the right note, defeating Alabama at home, 69-50. They will enter the Music City as the No.10 seed, avoiding the play-in game thanks to the Aggies win over Arkansas.
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The week 3 matchup at Kyle Field is the third non-conference game and might be the easiest on the schedule.
Positive notes could mean one thing, but so does production. The Aggies have claimed victory over Counzo Martin's squad twice the season thanks to more energetic offensive play.
January's matchup in Columbia was in favor of A&M despite a late surge from the Tigers' offense. Savion Flagg and Josh Nebo would each score 14 points while freshman Emanuel Miller tallied 12 for the offense, but the focus was on Mizzou. The team would break the NCAA record for free-throws (54) on the way to a 66-64 loss.
The Aggies saw better results at home 14 days later when three players reach double-digits in scoring. Both teams shot for under 35% while the home team collected 19 more rebounds, the ultimate difference-maker in a 68-51 victory.
Hope is still alive for the Aggies to make March Madness a reality behind a stellar coach. Williams, who was unsure of himself on how the team would perform in his first year, can see their fate going in both directions, better prepping the players for the blow of defeat rather than hopes that could never come true.
“I don't know I haven't studied the numbers my guess would be no,” Williams said before Saturday’s game on their tournament chances. “I would have to look at the numbers, but I would say a lot of good things have to go our way and we would have to do more than what we have done up until this point that would be my guess. Do I think there's a chance? Yeah, I think there's a chance.”
An early struggle against sub 100 NET teams in November (Harvard and Temple), while taking an embarrassing blow to Fairfield (Sub 200), will likely make A&M an underdog in the event. Still, the bracket could see upsets in favor of the Ags and Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Auburn all sit on their side.
All things will be answered on Thursday night when the Aggies take on the Tigers and begin their quest for an SEC title.