On March 16th, 2006, a 12th-seeded Texas A&M basketball team smothered 5th-seeded Syracuse 66-58 in the first of the NCAA Tournament. After draining threes left and right to lead the Orange to a Big East Tournament title, sharpshooter guard Gerry McNamara scored all of two points while not making a single field goal. Also, a little known point guard named Acie Law IV led the Ags with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. The victory marked the beginning of an unprecedented run of NCAA Tournament appearances for the maroon and white.
As Syracuse helped birth a new era of Aggie basketball, they may also be a part of A&M's resurrection.
The last two days have seen the two biggest victories of the Billy Kennedy era at Texas A&M: an 84-73 victory over Texas Wednesday and a Thanksgiving upset over #10 Gonzaga. Now the Ags can put the cherry on top with a Battle for Atlantis tournament championship.
Here are some factors to consider going in:
Both the Aggies and Orange will most likely come into the game on tired legs, playing their 3rd of back-to-back-to-back contests and their 4th in the last week (the two played November 21st, A&M against UNC-Asheville, Syracuse against Elon). Like the Ags, the Orange battled wire-to-wire in a hard-fought victory against former Big East rival UConn.
No doubt the two talented squads will be dealing with fatigue and the temptation to settle on jump shots or take a break on defense may seep in. A&M showed some signs of it against Gonzaga but continued to battle, hustling on defense and finding way to get to the free throw line. Winning this tournament would be a huge step forward obviously for A&M but also for Syracuse as they are a year removed from being voluntarily banned from the NCAA tournament.
Handling another good defense
Of course, Gonzaga was A&M's toughest test of the season, but it was the Bulldogs' defense that presented the biggest challenge. The Aggies were held without a field goal the final 8 minutes of the ball game and they will face another talented defense in Syracuse.
Jim Boheim will have his patented 2-3 zone and will make adjustments as the game goes just like Gonzaga's Mark Few. Good news for the Ags, their depth has been as good as advertised and scoring options abound throughout the roster.
Texas A&M still has nothing to lose
Texas A&M achieved more than what many expected and caught everyone in college basketball's attention yesterday when they stood toe to toe with a Final Four contender and came out on top. As @gigem08 mentioned in the preview then, Texas A&M had and still has absolutely nothing to lose in this game. They came out of this weekend with at least two high-quality wins and will do no harm to their tournament resume if they happen to lose against the Orange.
It will not be easy and they may be tired, but if the Aggies go out, enjoy the moment and snag another victory over a high-profile program, they may seal their newfound status of "Contender."