Our Aggies looked better than everyone (ourselves included) expected in Gainesville, but things went south in the last ten minutes. Texas A&M isn’t going to be in the NCAA tournament discussion this year, but if we were... we’d have the “good losses” category on absolute lockdown.
The Robert Williams part
We use almost every recap to highlight Robert Williams, which probably feels a little repetitive by this point, but we can’t help it. He was excellent again on Saturday.
Williams notched 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals against a very good Florida front line, and his efforts early in the second half keyed our 42-41 advantage with ten minutes remaining. Sure, he also had five turnovers. But on a day where four different guys had at least three (and the team had 20), it seems wasteful to harp on any one individual.
Williams continues to show up as a lottery selection, and we should make peace with the fact that he’s gone after this year.
Turnovers were a problem, but not in the way you might think
So, we’ve referenced the late surge by Florida, and we’ve referenced our pile of 20 turnovers. The likely scenario is that one fed the other, right? That’s not actually how it played out, as only two turnovers occurred in the final ten minutes. Our turnover problems didn’t key the Florida turnaround. They kept us from building a lead when the Gators were poor in the first half.
In our preview, we stated that we couldn’t touch Florida’s “A” game. That any path to victory would have to include a poor stretch by Florida. And y’all, the Gators obliged. They played poorly for much of the first half, and we didn’t do enough to take advantage.
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way - barring an SEC Tournament Championship, this team isn’t going to the NCAA Tournament. The question now becomes... what now? What are we playing for?
I guess it’s the NIT, as unexciting as that may be. The latest NIT Bracketology from 1/30 had us safely in the field, but we’ve got a tough stretch to finish the season. There’s no gimme in our next four games (@ Vanderbilt; Auburn, @ Arkansas, Alabama), and our last two feature a likely split (@ Mizzou, Kentucky), so 3-3 may be the goal to close things out. And since it doesn’t seem likely that a six man rotation can make a deep conference tourney run, we may want to close at 4-2 to be safe.
The NIT isn’t very exciting (at least not until the latter rounds), but it would represent an important milestone for this season. It would mean that this group, despite serious roster issues caused by NCAA sanctions, managed to keep it together and submit an average season. That might be enough to keep our incoming class intact, and we’d then have a decent chance at a Top 25 preseason roster.
At this point, that’s the goal. For me, at least. To not bottom out, and to try to keep some semblance of program momentum after least year’s spectacular run.
This important three week stretch to close things out starts on Thursday in Nashville.