Exactly two months ago (fine, two months and one day ago), our Aggies went on the road and got absolutely pistol whipped in their SEC opener at Alabama. It was a damning sign, particularly given the less-than-stellar preseason results. And in all honesty, there was really no cause for optimism at that point. Our road woes appeared to be heading for a fourth consecutive year of nopenopenope, our offense was stagnant, and our rebounding troubles had been magnified in a couple of ugly losses.
Then we took the best team in the country to double OT without Jalen Jones.
Noboby knew what to think. Was Kentucky overrated? Did they sleepwalk? Was it A&M's annual outlier, where they push an elite squad at home? Was it an overly complex optical illusion? Honestly, I couldn't fault you for believing any of the four. But truth, as we came to find out, was far stranger than fiction.
We had a damn good basketball team on our hands.
The Aggies ripped through their next twelve, going 10-2 over the meat of the schedule and sweeping a
offsides talented LSU squad. A&M was in most bracket projections, Danuel House was receiving legitimate SEC First Team run, and national publications were picking up on our return to relevance. For anyone who was on campus when basketball was at peak popularity, it was almost enough to bring a tear to your eye. Aggie Hoops was back.
But the season wasn't over. If 2014-2015 Aggie Basketball had a behind the music special, that win @SC (which brought the conference record to 10-4) would have been the awkward cut to commercial with foreboding music. The last three games have seen an impressive (although ultimately unsuccessful) fight back in Fayateville, a home destruction of Auburn, and a lifeless performance at Florida. That 1-2 stretch, along with some less than flattering results across the country (I'm looking at you, LSU), has placed the Aggies' tournament hopes in some doubt. What was once a relaxed battle for seeding has become a legitimate bubble discussion.
As such, we have to beat Alabama. We have to.
We have to win, because our only ticket is the "we don't lose to the dregs" angle. In fact, we've doubled down on that angle, only doubled down isn't a strong enough analogy. We saw the dealer six face up, asked the pit boss if we could quadruple down, and didn't break eye contact until he gave in. And it totally worked. *
* Do not make eye contact with a pit boss, ever
Which is all a long winded way for me to introduce yet another must-win game. No, not like the must win games I called against LSU, Florida at home, or @SC. It's actually must-win. A loss = no NCAA tournament... it's really that simple.
Now, on to the matter at hand. The Crimson Tide are in town on Senior Night, and it's time to deliver a beating. Let's break it down.
1) I wouldn't really call it a Crimson Tide. Maybe a faded Pink Tide.
This terrible analogy is meant to illustrate one thing: Alabama is not at full strength.
Shannon Hale (8.2 PPG) and Ricky Tarrant (13.1 PPG) are both lost for the season to injury, which leaves the Tide without two of their top four scorers. And in their only two games without both guys... they lost at Vandy and at home to Ole Miss.
Make no mistake, it's a wounded animal limping to the finish. Let's do the honorable thing and put them out of their misery.
2) Danuel House is ice cold
House is 6-30 in his last two games, which includes 2-18 from beyond the arc. Against Auburn he was still able to get to the rack and influence the proceedings, but he disappeared for large stretches against Florida.
It's a concerning trend.
Teams have started to deny House further and further away from the basket, and against Florida he saw a healthy does of immediate double teams. I was worried we'd see this every night after our game at Ole Miss... but it has only recently come back to bite us.
If it happens twice at A&M, it's a tradition... and I hope that an ice cold House is a terrible, terrible tradition we never have to see again.
Note: Still no word on his status (ankle) tomorrow
3) Alex Caruso is not ice cold
I'm under-selling it, a bit. Alex Caruso has missed one shot in the last two games, which is quite remarkable when you consider that he took 13 shots last week, eight of which were behind the arc. Dude is living in a different dimension right now. If he offered me a handshake, I'd politely decline on the off chance that I'd be immediately incinerated. Seriously, check out his last two games:
- Auburn (14 points; 5-5 FG; 4-4 3PT)
- Florida (20 points; 7-8 FG; 3-4 3PT)
If House returns to form and Caruso keeps shooting like this, we're going to run the Bammers out of the gym.
It's Senior Day (more coming on Roberson and Green in the next few days, btw), and it's a game we have to win to keep our tourney hopes alive. I think we'll get a great crowd, and I think we'll comfortably dispatch the Tide. Our work won't be done, but we'll still be in the conversation.