Friday, March 26, 2010
So close, but A&M so far from Houston
By Jeff Caplan
HOUSTON -- How amazing would the scene at Reliant Stadium be tonight had Texas A&M held its 11-point second-half lead over Purdue and joined Baylor in the Bayou City, basically the Aggies' backyard?
Think there's a lot of green-and-gold out here? You bet. Can you imagine the size of the maroon invasion that would have flocked to Houston -- and the legions already in Houston -- to see their beloved Aggies take on top-seeded Duke? By sheer size of the schools and alumni bases, Aggies likely would have outnumbered Bears 3-to-1.
A&M coach Mark Turgeon fully registered the ramifications.
"There's just some losses you'll never get over," Turgeon said of the 63-61 overtime loss to Purdue at his season-ending press conference Thursday at Reed Arena. Turgeon compared the heartache of Sunday's loss to that of his playing days at Kansas when the Jayhawks fell to Duke, 71-67, in the 1986 national semifinal. "Sunday's [is] a game we'll never get over. Our effort was tremendous, our preparation was tremendous, we just came up short. I think it's what lied ahead of that game as far as being able to go to Houston and play a No. 1 seed. It would have been great for our program. It still stings."
Instead, the Boilermarkers, still without their injured star Robbie Hummel are here to face the Blue Devils. And, Baylor is the singular toast of the Lone Star state, the last of seven Texas schools standing that started the NCAA tournament last week. The Bears are gobbling up the media attention from all directions and, most important, they have the full attention of recruits across the state and region.
The Bears are just a couple hours away from taking on the Saint Mary's Gaels in the first game of the South regional. Duke and Purdue follow. Who knows how many Aggies can bear even watching.
"It's great to be down here," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "I know our team is excited to be close to home and having an opportunity to have Baylor Nation down here, and more importantly representing the state of Texas and the Big 12 Conference, so we're excited."