Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

Texas A&M has come a long way

March 22, 2007

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— Some Texas A&M students wore paper bags over their heads during Acie Law's freshman season, embarrassed to be rooting for a team that didn't win a conference game.

Now, Aggies fans are decked out in maroon shirts, eager to be part of what Law and his teammates are doing.

For Memphis (32-3), the No. 2 seed in the NCAA South Regional, that means once again playing in front of a partisan crowd despite have a better seed.

"I would have never imagined playing in San Antonio with the Sweet 16 with the opportunity to go to the Elite Eight after what I experienced by freshman year," Law said Wednesday. "Coach came in and he changed all our mindsets. He told us we were going to win, and not take as long as people thought."

That's exactly what the Aggies have done under Billy Gillispie, going from that 0-16 record in the Big 12 to the NCAA round of 16 and a school-record 27 victories only three seasons later.

And Texas A&M won't be far from home tonight for its first regional semifinal game since 1980. The game will be in the Alamodome, only about a 21â2-hour drive from campus.

When the Aggies finished their practice, the players greeted and shook hands with fans, many who chanted Law's name.

A crowd of more than 30,000 is expected today, mostly in A&M colors. If the Aggies (27-6) win, there might not be another color visible for the regional final this weekend - much like when Texas won a regional final in the same building four years ago.

"It may be able to help you get over a couple of tough spots in the games, but it won't be the ultimate determining factor," Gillispie said. "We learned that last weekend, and everybody is coming here for a reason. Everyone is coming here to win."

Memphis hasn't been the Final Four since 1985, when its NCAA run included four straight victories in Texas. The Tigers' 24-game winning streak is the nation's longest, the last loss Dec. 20 at Arizona before their undefeated run through Conference USA.

The Aggies were in the same position for their second-round game last weekend as Memphis is in now. They had to beat Louisville at Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington, just more than an hour-long drive from the Cardinals' campus.

"To do that, they deserve the opportunity" to play near home, coach John Calipari said. "It's a disadvantage (for us), there's no question."

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