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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Let’s dance

Aggies to square off against Cornhuskers in first round
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It’s tournament time.

No more worries about Quad-1 wins and losses, NET rankings, strength of schedule or conference record. The fates of each college basketball team has been decided, and for Texas A&M men’s basketball, it is one of the lucky few who get to play for a chance at a national title in March.

The Aggies were living on the bubble for the latter half of the season thanks to a five-game losing streak that stretched the entirety of February, which included Quad-3 losses to Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

However, the Maroon and White willed themselves back into the tournament with a strong close to the season, going on a five-game winning streak, beating Georgia, Mississippi State and Ole Miss twice.

The final win in that stretch came against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals — the first time A&M has beaten the Wildcats twice in a season — and seemingly clinched the Aggies berth in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. This is the first time A&M has made the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years since 2010-11.

The Maroon and White may not have had to worry about reaching the Big Dance as much as initially projected, as A&M’s No. 9 seeding put them an entire seed line above the play-in tournament, where they will face off against the 8-seed in the South Region, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Both teams have history playing against one another in the old Big 12, where the Cornhuskers hold the all-time 12-8 record against the Aggies, but neither have met on the hardwood since 2011.

Nebraska emerged as a surprise in the Big 10 this season, as the Cornhuskers were picked to finish 12 out of 14 teams. Instead, Nebraska finished third, tallying a 12-8 record with wins over tournament teams like Michigan State, Northwestern Wisconsin and Purdue along the way.

In last year’s NCAA Tournament, the Maroon and White had the unfortunate privilege of playing a red-hot Penn State team that took advantage of A&M’s biggest defensive weakness under coach Buzz Williams: 3-point shooting.

The Nittany Lions came into the game No. 3 in the country in 3-pointers per game and points from beyond the arch, No. 12 in 3-pointers attempted per game and No. 7 in 3-point percentage. Penn State routed the Aggies 76-59, sinking 13 3s on just 22 attempts to send A&M home early.

In a similar fashion to last season, the Maroon and White will have to face their demons once again, as — though maybe not at as high of a clip as Penn State — the Cornhuskers make their living from downtown.

Nebraska is No. 29 in 3-pointers attempted per game and No. 21 in 3s made per game, all led by its breakout guard, junior Keisei Tominaga.

The Moriyama Nagoya Aichi, Japan native leads the way for the Cornhuskers offensively, averaging 14.9 points per game on 37.2% shooting from 3, part of the reason he has been nicknamed, “The Japanese Steph Curry.” Tominaga has scored at least 18 points in each of Nebraska’s last four games heading into the tournament while scoring a season-high 31 against Illinois on Feb. 24.

Backing him up offensively in the paint is junior forward Rienk Mast. The Groningen, Netherlands native grew up playing korfball, a sport similar to netball, before transitioning to basketball, playing for Bradley University for four years before joining the Cornhuskers this offseason.

Six-foot-10 Mast is Nebraska’s answer down low, but that’s not the only place he can score from. Mast is shooting 34.2% from 3, and has made 41 this year to help push him to third in points per game for the Cornhuskers at 12.5.

The Aggies are tied for 226th nationally in 3-point defense, giving up 6.9 3-point shots a game. In losses to Florida Atlantic, Alabama and Florida, A&M gave up an average 16 made 3-pointers.

Where A&M holds the advantage over Nebraska is where it’s been better than everyone in the country the entire year: on the offensive glass.

The Maroon and White are averaging 17.26 offensive rebounds per game and are No. 1 in the country in rebounds per game. This is due largely to the Aggies’ own international star, senior F Andersson Garcia.

The Moca, Dominican Republic native broke the A&M rebounds in a season record this year with 320, all while finishing second in the country in offensive rebounds, only behind senior Purdue F Zach Edey.

Nebraska is No. 15 nationally in defensive rebounding, but if A&M is to find an answer to the Cornhuskers’ offensive barrage, they will have to get second-chance points from its veteran backcourt in graduate Tyrece Radford and juniors Wade Taylor IV and Manny Obaseki.

While Radford and Taylor have been the offensive catalysts for the Aggies all season, averaging 16 and 18.9 points per game respectively, Obaseki has emerged late in the season as A&M’s third backcourt option.

The Allen native is averaging 15.8 points per game since being inserted into the starting lineup against Georgia. This includes a career-high 25-point performance on the road against Ole Miss.

A&M is looking to reach the second round of March Madness for the first time since 2018, while Nebraska is looking for its first-ever win in the NCAA Tournament. Tip-off is set for 5:50 p.m. on TNT, at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. The winner of this matchup will face the winner of Houston versus Longwood.

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About the Contributor
Hunter Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management senior minoring in journalism. Hunter has covered football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, hockey, cross country, track and field, along with swim and dive. Hunter's favorite sport is college basketball, and he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Hunter also hosts weekly episodes of the Home Turf sports podcast.
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