Missouri St.-Texas A&M Preview
Texas A&M isn't entering the NCAA Tournament with any momentum while the same can't be said for Missouri State, which used a seven-game win streak that included the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title to bring back memories of the program's glory days.
The Aggies also have the memory of being upset in the first round a season ago and hope to avoid that fate Saturday when they host the Lady Bears.
Texas A&M (21-9) is making its 11th straight NCAA appearance and has a favorable bracket with two potential home games before a regional in Dallas. The problem is that it has been more than three weeks since the fourth-seeded Aggies last won after losing 71-58 to then-No. 15 Kentucky on Feb. 28 and their SEC tournament opener to Tennessee, 70-60 on March 4.
"When you come off two losses, which that's only happened one other time this year when we lost to South Carolina and Florida, you're ready to get right back in the gym," coach Gary Blair said. "We hadn't played in 15 days. We played one game in 20 days. So, that concerns me."
Missouri State (24-9) will end a 10-year NCAA drought thanks to its longest win streak of the season. The Lady Bears got double-doubles from Tyonna Snow in a 65-61 MVC semifinal victory over Drake on March 12 and a 71-58 win over Northern Iowa the next day in the championship.
The program is coached by former Tennessee star point guard Kellie Harper. This is the school's 14th appearance, which includes Final Fours in 1992 and 2001 - with the latter coming when current assistant Jackie Stiles was the team's star.
"We're so grateful that we get the chance to play in this tournament again and get back to that tradition that so many fans around the country know of the Lady Bears," guard Kenzie Williams said. "It's just been amazing to go through this whole process."
The Lady Bears probably won't be intimidated since they went 2-1 against SEC teams this season with victories over Mississippi and Arkansas. The Aggies lost to the Razorbacks 67-61 on Jan. 7.
Missouri State is wary about what it expects to be a difficult environment at Reed Arena.
"I've got a feeling that they're going to want to come out and make a statement early, and we're going to have to handle that," Harper said. "There is no doubt the first few minutes of this game is going to be very important."
The Aggies are led by two players with the first name Courtney. Courtney Walker led the SEC with 18.1 points per game while Courtney Williams averaged 12.5. Walker needs 35 points to pass Takia Starks (1,977) as the school's all-time leader.