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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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Analysis: A&M can’t rely on a miracle for Sweet 16

Senior+guard+Danuel+House%2C+who+didn%26%238217%3Bt+score+until+there+were+26+seconds+left+in+regulation+scored+19+points+against+Northern+Iowa.
Photo by Photo by: Lawrence Smelser

Senior guard Danuel House, who didn’t score until there were 26 seconds left in regulation scored 19 points against Northern Iowa.

Just two days before enduring one of the most devastating losses in college basketball history, Northern Iowa upset sixth-seeded Texas 75-72 on an improbable halfcourt buzzer-beater. Jubilant Panthers raced off of the bench to mob hero Paul Jesperson on the Oklahoma City hardwood.

But the beauty of March Madness can at times be a curse.

UNI had to play another game. Unfortunately for them, the good fortune from the dramatic victory didn’t transfer to Sunday. 

The comeback that Texas A&M produced against Northern Iowa was one that might never be repeated again in college basketball history. Down 12 points with 34 seconds remaining, all hope of a Sweet 16 berth seemed lost and the most successful Aggie basketball season in years looked to be coming to a permanent, bitter close. 

Then the unthinkable happened. A&M rallied to win in two overtimes and its dream season lived to fight another day.

Like their victims before them, the Aggies must understand that they have to play another game. The Sooners have hovered around a top-10 ranking all season, and won’t care about any “miracle” A&M may have produced in the past. While Aggie fans have a lot to celebrate after the improbable comeback win, there is also cause for concern.

When looking back over the win against the Panthers, A&M’s determination and focus cannot be overstated. However, the game brings up a few big concerns for the Aggies as a date with their former Big 12 foe looms.

First on the list of potential issues is the perimeter defense. As seen Sunday night, A&M lacked in defending the long ball and it hurt them for the entire contest, including the overtime periods. The Aggies allowed Jeremy Morgan, a Northern Iowa guard who averaged 10 points per game in the regular season, to explode for 36 points.

Oklahoma as a team shoots 43 percent from downtown, which is second best in the country. Senior and Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield alone shoots 46 percent from the arc and can burn down the gym if he finds his stroke early. 

Guarding Hield presents problem number two for A&M. The Aggies have shut-down defender Alex Caruso as an option to guard the lethal shooter, however it takes more than one person to truly guard Hield. If A&M struggles to defend the perimeter like they did against Northern Iowa, the Aggies could be in for a long game. 

Taking care of the basketball is the other issue. Oklahoma likes to get out and run, open up the floor for their shooters and put up as many points as possible. They average 80 per game, which is 15th best nationally. 

The Aggies have a stellar defense, allowing just 66 points per contest this year. However, that defense is only effective in half-court sets. When on the break, it is hard to stop the Sooners and even harder for an Aggie team that likes to control the tempo.

The Aggies have talent all-around. Overall, their wing players are a bit more threatening than the Sooners’ and A&M has the depth, something Oklahoma lacks, to give the Sooners trouble. A&M has scored 92 points in their first two games, but without the miraculous comeback, UNI likely would have held A&M to under 60 points. 

There is cause for excitement around A&M. This team has the realistic shot at reaching Final Four in Houston. However, before booking tickets and hotels, take a step back and look at what took place Sunday night. 

The comeback was admittedly unreal. However, if UNI simply inbounds the ball and does not panic, we would be talking about the Panthers in the Sweet 16 — not A&M. It was not luck — it took determination and talent to comeback in that fashion — but if the Aggies come out and play as they did for 39 minutes on Sunday night, it could be a rude exit for A&M in Anaheim and those photos of distraught UNI fans could be Aggie fans come Thursday night.

 

Andre Perrard is a sports management senior and sports reporter for The Battalion.

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