Texas and Texas A&M meet in Big 12-SEC Challenge
The Big 12 and SEC couldn't have asked for a better game for the inaugural challenge between the conferences Sunday with No. 3 Texas facing No. 4 Texas A&M.
The two schools will play each other in a doubleheader in Little Rock along with Arkansas facing Oklahoma. The site of the doubleheader will be used for the SEC tournament this March. The four teams will play again next year in Oklahoma City with the matchups switched.
''When they put this game together, they weren't anticipating that,'' Texas coach Karen Aston said of the high rankings. ''We have one more game before we play A&M that we need to be worried about. But this will be a fun game for the fans.''
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was thrilled for a chance to play against Texas in a matchup of two of the best teams in the country.
''It's nice to say Texas and A&M and we're not talking about football for once,'' Blair said. ''That's all they talk about on radio here. All women's basketball is doing is trying for our slice of the pie down here. The pie is football, but we're increasing those slices of pepperoni here.''
His team has a pair of impressive wins already with victories against Duke and DePaul. The Aggies (11-0) though, like most teams in the country, have been in exams for the last week and basketball has been secondary.
''This is the last final exam before Christmas,'' Blair said. ''This is going to be a little harder than my journalism ones. It's more like microbiology. Texas is playing better than all of us right now. They're doing a really good job.''
The Longhorns (8-0) have their own strong victories this season. They won at Stanford and UCLA and then beat Tennessee at home.
''Those wins at Stanford and UCLA gave our team confidence on the road,'' Aston said. ''We are developing some road toughness.''
Despite it being a road game for both teams, there will be a lot of familiar faces in the crowd supporting them. Aston grew up in Arkansas and went to Little Rock for college. Blair helped guide the Lady Razorbacks to the Final Four in 1998 and he expects a lot of his family to be at the game.
''I'm still doing the commuter marriage for the last 12 years, they all will be coming up from Fayetteville,'' he said. ''We're going to have a lot of folks there. Then afterward the teams will disperse and go home for Christmas. I'll be riding back with my wife to Fayetteville for a few days.''
Blair hopes that fans will come out and watch this marquee women's basketball matchup.
''I know all four teams have talked to their alumni fan bases and while the time isn't perfect with Christmas around the corner, it's a chance for them to watch great basketball. We're trying to help build the market down there.''
Other great games this week include No. 6 North Carolina hosting No. 16 Oregon State on Tuesday. Seventh-ranked Stanford makes an eastern swing with games against Chattanooga and 11th-ranked Tennessee. Second-ranked UConn hosts No. 25 DePaul on Friday. Doug Bruno's squad has already played the fourth-ranked Aggies and No. 5 Notre Dame.
Top-ranked South Carolina has a busy week with three games. The Gamecocks, who are No. 1 for the fourth straight week, visit Hampton on Wednesday before heading to Minnesota for a tournament.
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