Two of My Favorites Split

Two of my favorite coaches split their season match-up when Texas A&M upset Texas last night. The Texas A&M Aggies have now beaten Top 10 ranked Texas (their rivals) in two consecutive years in College Station.

You can weigh in on the previous link and discussion by clicking here.

I will refrain from the obvious jabs at the NC State Excuse Club on how Billie Gillispie was able to immediately succeed like he did last year in his first friggin year in a basketball desert known as College Station. Or the facetious comments on how it isn’t fair to him that he has to recruit so close Bobby Knight, Rick Barnes, and even Tom Penders at Houston.

Sound familiar?

By Lee Fowler-standards, Coach Gillispie still has three years before his clock even starts in College Station. I wonder if the Aggie fans are allowed to enjoy these years that don’t count in the same manner that the Texas Longhorn fans were allowed to enjoy all of the success that Rick Barnes enjoyed in his first 5 years (that wouldn’t have “counted” at NC State).

General NCS Basketball

5 Responses to Two of My Favorites Split

  1. class of '74 03/02/2006 at 7:21 AM #

    Jeff you and I both know we are stuck with Mr. Mediocre for as long as he wants. We can come up with lists of great possiblities but in the end the song remains the same. Until complete ennui takes over the fanbase nothing will happen. The problem with that scenario is it’s too late then.

    Sorry to be so pesimistic but how many years must we hit the wall before it is apparent maybe this guy’s not the answer?

  2. VaWolf82 03/02/2006 at 8:35 AM #

    I like Jason’s concluding paragraph and I think that it explains why FSU isn’t in just yet”

    The real question is which FSU team will show up in the tournament(s) — both ACC and NCAA? Will it be the team that beat Duke (nearly twice) or the one that lost by 22 at NC State, 11 at Virginia Tech, or at Clemson?

    FSU blew a big opportunity when they went down in B’burg. They travel to Miami this weekend to play a team that they have already lost to once. A win in Miami and a win over WF on Thurs in the ACCT and they’re in. Lose to UM and it may take a win on Friday in the ACCT as well.

  3. Nate Johnson 03/02/2006 at 2:39 PM #

    For starters, it’s Texas Independence Day down here. so, Happy Texas Independence Day!

    Since I’m probably one of the only folks here — if not the only one — who has seen the Aggies play in person on more than a few occasions, I’ll throw in a few comments about Coach Gillispie’s team.

    First, on recruiting.

    Or the facetious comments on how it isn’t fair to him that he has to recruit so close Bobby Knight, Rick Barnes, and even Tom Penders at Houston.

    Coach Gillispie has one distinct advantage over Barnes, Knight, and even Penders, at least when it comes to recruiting within the state: He’s a native Texan (a bigger deal down here then most outside of the Republic know) who has been in Texas basketball in some form for nearly all his life. Moreover, He coached at three different high schools and was an assitant at SW Texas State and Baylor before leading UTEP to the dance a couple years back. Other than the occasional Lithuanian, most of A&M’s roster and nearly 100% of Coach Gillispie’s recruting is within Texas.

    Given that foundation — and what has been in recent years, at best, a disappointing football team by Aggie standards — any excitement built around this team serves only to make Coach Gillispie’s job recruiting a bit easier. Unlike back east, where basketball dynasties are seemingly a dime a dozen, Texas, as a state, really doesn’t have the kind of basketball history you’ll find in NC. For every Phi Slamma Jamma in Texas, there are ten national championships, three dozen sweet sixteens, and countless NCAA tournament appearances — and that’s just in the Big Four.

    That said, Coach Knight (for reasons of legacy and personality, not to mention ESPN reality shows) and Coach Barnes (recent success, history in basketball country at Clemson) are going to get more press and national attention than Gillispie will for a long while. As a result, they will likely have more success in recruiting kids from out of state. So, While Gillispie may have a good edge in state, the fact remains that Texas always has been and always will be a football state, where young athletes are encouraged to play football over basketball. The bottom line: the talent pool where Gillispie has a distinct recruiting edge is not quite as deep. So… those comments may not be quite as facetious as they seem on the surface.

    Second, on records and rankings.

    A&M has compiled their 19-7 record against a very weak non-conference schedule (wins against teams with RPIs of 143, 295, 229, 110, 199, 292, 333, 96, 304, and 68 and a loss at 103) and within a Big XII that has seen better days. It’s rated fifth overall in RPI with an average of 57.62 — not counting not-eligible-for-post-season-play 4-11 Baylor. In large part, the Aggies have won the games they should have won (with the exception of @ Pacific and @ Kansas State), protected the home court against inferior opponents, and stolen a few here and there (@ ISU, Colorado, OSU, Texas).

    A&M’s success seems even larger when cast against the backdrop of an 0-16 conference season two years ago. I’d argue that their final RPI of 246 that year had little to do with a lack of talent, perhaps falling at the feet of their coach. As beloved as he may have been in Aggieland, Coach Watkins was forced out of a basketball coaching job at a football school. One year later — and with essentially the same talent, save for one or two recruits and a guy Coach Gillispie calls his “powerless forward” — they went 8-8 in conference. Draw your own conclusions.

    Third, on style.

    At one A&M home game early in the season, they announced that for every home game A&M wins while scoring at least 80 points, everyone in the house would receive a coupon for a free cheeseburger at any local McDonald’s. I laughed out loud, because A&M’s slow-it-down style of play is not likely to result in 80 points in a game very often. In fact, through last night, they’ve only done it eight times, with half of those wins coming at home and against vastly inferior competition.

    How does A&M win? Gritty, man-to-man defense, on-the-floor-after-every-loose-ball intensity, and a slow-it-down style of offense geared not toward any one system per se, but — more importantly — geared to the talent on the floor. They’re fun to watch, and while it’s not as big as most arenas for schools of its size, Reed Arena is cozy and can get rather loud.

    A few final comments.

    While I haven’t run any kind of numbers, I see a lot of “anecdotal” parallels between this Aggie team and the Wolfpack in the early years of the Sendek era. Both teams a play gritty man-to-man defense and with a very high intensity level (save for the Wolfpack in recent games…). Both coaches have crafted an offensive scheme that tries to emphasize the talent on the floor as opposed to playing some pre-determined “system” that their players aren’t suited to play. Both teams snuck a few wins they weren’t supposed to, lost a few they shouldn’t have, and came within a few points of beating a lot of folks early on. (How many games did State lose by less then 5 points in Sendek’s first year? A&M lost three in a row this year by four or less, all to RPI-Top-100 and two of those on the road.)

    Perhaps one notable difference between the Aggies of now and the Wolfpack of then is that, knock on wood, A&M hasn’t suffered any season-ending injuries to critical players. What effect this may have had on State’s success, if any, I’ll leave for others to debate. Another is how A&M’s teams have maintained their intensity level, while our Wolfpack has perhaps lost their intensity a bit in recent weeks. This is only Gillispie’s second year, and I’d content that harder times lie ahead as they beef up their non-conference schedule and as the Big XII begins to regroup for the future.

    Coach Gillispie has created a lot of buzz about his Aggie Hoopsters during his time here. An article about a year ago hailed the fact that, after making the NIT last year, the basketball players were no longer “second-class citizens” on A&M’s campus. Attendance is up, with Reed having set attendance records (in excess of 1,000 over the arena’s listed capacity both times) at least twice in as many seasons.

    Did last night’s win get them into the dance? On its own, I doubt it. They were on Lundardi’s and Bracketography’s burst bubble lists going into last night. Their RPI in the high 40s bears that out, putting them squarely in the middle of the 30% bubble list. Beating Tech in Knight’s house this weekend and/or winning a game or two in the Big XII tournament will put them in better stead. Either way, he’s got folks down here — well those who aren’t still upset about Coach Fran — excited about basketball.

  4. Jeff 03/02/2006 at 3:25 PM #

    ^ Those perspectives and comment are amazing. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Wxwolf 03/05/2006 at 6:54 PM #

    I know this is late in coming, but I was shocked when the CBS announcers at the Texas-Oklahoma game today said that Texas had only sold out 3 home basketball games all season! And they have an arena that sits less than 7,000! Wow, maybe Rick Barnes would consider coming back to an area where basketball doesn’t play second fiddle to football… 😉

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