It's nearing 3 days since the greatest comeback in A&M sports history occurred, and it still feels as unbelievable as it did last night. The game has been broken down piece-by-piece, gifs and hot takes are posted everywhere, but the final result continues to bewilder. Not even some calculators believed the Aggies could pull this off, and here we are just days away from the Ags playing in their 3rd ever Sweet 16 game. No matter how many times I watch or read about it, I still find myself unable to wrap my mind around just how miraculous Texas A&M's comeback was against Northern Iowa.
Naturally when such emotional events occur, the discussion begins on where this ranks on the All-Time meter. At first thought, it kind of seems silly that A&M basketball accomplished something that's never been done before in college sports and yet it still may not take the top spot. As a singular event, last night stands alone and there's no close second. But when accounting context around the game and stakes at hand, then the answer is still up for debate. A part of that debate will be determined by how the Ags fare this Thursday against #2-seed Oklahoma.
It's been just a shade under a decade since A&M last saw themselves in the Sweet 16 with the highly beloved Acie Law squad of 2006-07. If you were to ask most Aggie fans, it's probably unanimous that is the best team to ever wear a maroon and white uniform. In the years since, no other Aggie team has sniffed the magic and overall greatness of Law/D-Kirk/Josh Carter/Joe Jones/ Antanas Kavaliauskas. Well, until now. Whether this year's team likes it or not, ever since they reached Top-5 status earlier this season, the comparison to 06-07 is undeniable.
While this Sweet 16 run naturally links the two together, the contexts surrounding those seasons feel completely different. 06-07 represented the zenith of the Golden Era of Aggie basketball. The two years prior built such a momentum that all of campus was all in for Acie Law's senior year. 2004-05 saw an NIT game at Reed draw a sell out crowd. 2005-06 had "The Shot", and eventual Final 4 team LSU needed a Hail Mary 3 to prevent the Ags from reaching the Sweet 16. It was more than a resurrection of a program. Aggie basketball was outright born, and Acie Law's senior year was the prime of its youth. A slew of moments made that year's squad a "Team of Destiny."
First, the best 3-day stretch in A&M basketball history occurred when the Ags took down #6 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday primetime ESPN, followed by decimating Kevin Durant and Texas at Reed on Big Monday. To add a little more context, Kansas didn't lose again at the Phog for nearly 4 years, and has only lost 3 times SINCE 2007! It's hard to imagine the next time A&M or any other team will beat a Top-10 powerhouse program and a #2 overall draft pick in back to back games.
2nd, the best basketball player in A&M history led the way on the '06-'07 squad in Acie Law. Not only is he the greatest basketball player, but also he has to be in the discussion for all-time greats in every sport including football. There was no other player you wanted with the ball in his hands in the final seconds more than Law. The kid never missed and only thrived in the clutch. If it were not for a once-in-a-generation player like Kevin Durant coming along, Law would be our one and only Naismith Player of the Year. His clutch shots and leadership were the engine behind that special team and captured the hearts of all A&M fans for that fall and spring.
Looking back, the fact that this squad reached the Sweet 16 feels like an underachievement. Of their 7 losses that season, 6 were by 3 or less points. The loss that ended their season officially started the trend of brutal eliminations from the NCAA tournament. Against #2-seed Memphis--then coached by John Calipari--the Ags gave up 763 offensive rebounds in the Tigers's final possession, eventually leading to a 50% free throw shooter burying both shots at the charity stripe to end A&M's season, 65-64. For all of the joy and glory that squad more, there was equal heartache and belief that they could have done more.
For all the investment fans had in the '06-'07 team, this year's roster has spent the entire season trying to convince everyone they are for real. Where the Golden Age was filled with hope and aspirations, the Billy Kennedy era has been mired in disappointment and doubt.
Though they technically improved each season, the main characteristics consisted of late season swoons, no-shows on televised games and transfers on transfers. Whenever the Ags built a little goodwill to attract fans to Reed, a confounding defeat would occur right on cue.
Even this year's magical had plenty of moments to give fans pause. Eye-opening victories over Texas and then 10th ranked Gonzaga was followed by an absolute drubbing at the hands of Arizona State. Then after laying the smackdown on Baylor at Reed, a 10-game win streak, and the program's ONLY Top-5 ranking ever, the Aggies lost 5 straight conference matchups. Of those 5 conference losses, only one made the tournament and it was play-in game loser, Vanderbilt. The good will that was built crashed in just a couple of weeks. Just another thing to add on the list of disappointments.
Despite the woes, this year's team continues to bounce back, now having won 10 of the last 11, including an all-time great comeback. And if the Ags win tomorrow, they will reach a point that no other team in program history has ever made. If the Ags are able to pull it off, it will be interesting to see how fans compare the two. But for the first time in the BK era, Texas A&M is no longer having to convince that they are for real. It may have taken a 14-2 run in 44 seconds to convince everyone, but now the belief is finally there that we are witnessing something special.