Texas A&M eyes NCAA Tournament, but focus is on Missouri
Last year, Texas A&M failed to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament despite winning 23 games before Selection Sunday and beating three nationally ranked teams late.
This season, the Aggies (19-7, 11-2 Southeastern Conference) are determined not to repeat that disappointment. They have won six of their last seven games coming into their game against Missouri (19-7, 7-6) on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.
“The staff has been as good as I have ever been around,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said. “And the cohesiveness — player to player, coach to coach, players to coaches, coaches to players — there is a symmetry that I have never experienced.”
The Aggies beat Auburn twice over the past three weeks, and they rallied past Arkansas 62-56 at home Wednesday. This contest at Mizzou Arena gives them another chance to make their case.
“Do I think that we are going to win every game? I hope that we do,” Williams said. “But do I think that we are in this position exclusively because of our talent? No. Do I think we are in this position exclusively because of our coaching? No. I think we are in this position because of the character of the people involved.”
The Aggies routed Missouri 82-64 on Jan. 11 at home in their previous meeting. Texas A&M had six players score in double figures, including Hayden Hefner — who shot 3-for-3 from 3-point range and scored 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench.
Guard Wade Taylor IV leads the Aggies with 15.3 points and 4.1 assists per game. Power forward Henry Coleman III (10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds per game) could create matchup problems for Missouri, which has struggled with rim protection and rebounding.
The Tigers are coming off a wildly uneven road trip. They upset then-No. 6 Tennessee 86-85 on DeAndre Gholston’s buzzer-beating 3-point heave, then they imploded during an ugly 89-56 loss at Auburn on Tuesday.
Missouri fell behind 45-18 in a disastrous first half. Kobe Brown, who leads the Tigers with a 16.1 scoring average, had just seven points against Auburn and Gholston shot 1-for-10 from the field.
“I think I had to talk to all the guys, not just one, with the start that we had,” Missouri coach Dennis Gates said. “Ultimately, I thought the guys responded in the second half. But our team isn’t one person and we have to continue to do the things that we need to do to make sure that we put ourselves in a great situation.”
–Field Level Media