Friday, February 26, 2010
Seeds at stake as Texas visits A&M
By Jeff Caplan
Here's an amazing stat as No. 21 Texas plays at No. 23 Texas A&M at 1 p.m. Saturday: The home team has won the last 12 regular-season meetings in the series.
Texas has the last road win all the way back on Jan. 31, 2004.
If the Longhorns (22-6, 8-5 Big 12) expect to reverse trend and get past the Aggies (19-8, 8-5), they're likely going to have to win the battle of the backcourts. For a fluctuating, inconsistent Texas backcourt, that's a tall order going up against steady A&M senior Donald Sloan.
In Texas' Jan. 16 overtime win over A&M in Austin -- just five days after the Horns took over as the nation's No. 1 team -- Sloan's 21 points equaled the combined efforts of the freshman trio of J'Covan Brown, Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton.
The interesting thing there is that Brown scored 14 of the 21 in 29 minutes. Heading into what will be a sold-out Reed Arena (students are doing the camping out thing), Brown is no longer assured of even playing 14 minutes. In his return to the starting lineup Wednesday against Oklahoma State in the wake of Dogus Balbay's season-ending knee injury, Brown lasted 16 minutes. He went 0-of-6 from the field with no assists and a pair of turnovers.
Hamilton scored two points against Oklahoma State and Bradley had five points.
Meanwhile, Sloan, who ranks fourth in the Big 12 in scoring at 18. 1 points a game, accounting for 25.1 percent of his team's scoring, will try to keep the Aggies from dropping two in a row for the first time since Jan. 12 and 16. A&M lost at Baylor on Wednesday to fall into a three-way tie for fourth place with the Bears and Horns.
"Just another game," Sloan said of Saturday's 1 p.m. tip on ESPN. "One we’ve got to win; not any bigger, not any less important."
That might not be entirely true.
Texas and A&M are fighting for NCAA Tournament seeding. The Horns, with a win, would move up the polls for the first time since becoming No. 1 on Jan. 11 as well as start to perk up the selection committee with a third consecutive victory. Meanwhile, A&M, which owns a higher RPI than Texas, is in danger of dropping out of the polls while putting a golden opportunity to notch 10 conference wins in jeopardy.
The Aggies wrap up the final week of the regular season with a desperate, bubble-riding Oklahoma State squad (which plays host to No. 1 Kansas on Saturday) coming to College Station, followed by a trip to reeling Oklahoma. A win over the Longhorns on Saturday could set up the Aggies to finish ahead of Texas in the standings. Texas and Baylor, which plays at Oklahoma on Saturday, must still face each other on the final day of the season next Saturday, assuring one of at least a sixth loss.