You look familiar…

The Texas A&M men’s basketball team drew a #9 seed in the West region and will face #8-seeded BYU in a first-round game.

Wait, haven’t we done this before? Last year…

…the Texas A&M men’s basketball team drew a #9 seed in the West region and faced #8-seeded BYU in a first-round game.

With all the machinations of the NCAA tourney machine, this is one very strange outcome, but at least we’re in.

(By the way, A&M won last year’s matchup, 67-62, so here’s hoping the parallels continue…)

Acie at the bat

Oh, somewhere in this favored land
The sun is shining bright
The band is playing somewhere
And somewhere hearts are light

And somewhere men are laughing
And little children shout
But there is no joy in Mudville
Mighty Casey has struck out.

“Casey at the Bat” by Ernest L. Thayer (1888)

Less than a minute left in the game, Texas A&M leading Memphis, 64-63. A&M is inbounding the ball at the far end of the court with only 8 seconds left on the shot clock. But wait!—the Aggies’ Acie Law IV gets free behind the defense on a breakaway… he goes up… and he misses the layup!

47 seconds, two Memphis free throws, and a (missed) A&M three-pointer at the buzzer later, the Aggies are bounced out of the NCAA tournament, 65-64.

The Aggies lose by one, as Acie Law, the Aggies’ “Captain Clutch”—who hit a 3-pointer and two free throws in the last 30 seconds to lift A&M to a come-from-behind win at Kansas… who hit a 3-pointer with 0:02 left to send the game against Texas into overtime, then hit another 3-pointer with less than 30 seconds left in overtime to send the same game into double overtime… who hit two free throws with less than 0:02 left to ice the second-round win over Louisville—finally missed a shot that mattered. The shot that mattered. It happened—but it wasn’t supposed to. Maybe to mere mortals. But not to Superman.

But with that, A&M’s season (and Law’s four years at A&M) came to a stunning end, and for the second year in a row, the Aggies exit the tourney with a heartbreaking, last-second, one-point loss. Still, the Aggies—and Acie Law, in particular—gave us a hell of a season, one to be proud of, with way more highlights than setbacks. Most wins in a season in A&M history. Most Big XII conference wins in A&M history. Highest rankings in the polls in A&M history. And Law, the first consensus All-American in A&M basketball history.

It was just supposed to go at least one game longer.

You’re [Sweet] 16, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine

(with apologies to Ringo Starr)

0:57 – #6-seed Louisville leads #3-seed Texas A&M, 69-68… A&M’s Acie Law IV hits two free throws, and now the Aggies are up, 70-69.

0:29 – NO! Law fouls Louisville’s Edgar Sosa, who’s 15-of-15 from the line today.

0:29 – Yes! Sosa misses his first free throw of the day!

0:29 – YES! Sosa misses his second free throw of the day! A&M’s Joseph Jones has the rebound and is fouled!

0:29 – No! Jones misses the first of free throw.

0:29 – NO! Jones misses the second free throw, leaving the Aggies up by only one.

0:17 – After a Louisville time out, the Cardinals bring the ball up the court, and I’m instantly flashing back to the end of last year’s round-of-32 game against LSU

0:10 – …but Sosa puts up a rushed 3-pointer… CLANG! off the back of the iron! A&M’s Marlon Pompey grabs the rebound and hands off to Law, who’s fouled.

0:01 – Law sinks the first FT… A&M, 71-69.

0:01 – Law sinks the second! A&M, 72-69.

0:00 – Sosa heaves a desperation 3-pointer for Louisville at the buzzer, which caroms harmlessly off the backboard. Aggies win, 72-69!

And with that, Texas A&M reaches the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1980, back when the Aggies beat vaunted North Carolina in the round of 32 (only to lose, coincidentally, to Louisville, who went on to win the national championship that year).

So despite getting screwed by the tournament committee (the Aggies were the higher seed but ended up playing the first two rounds at Rupp Arena in Kentucky, making this second round game a virtual home game for lower-seeded Louisville), the Aggies advance to the regionals in San Antonio, where A&M should be playing in front of their own home crowd. Which (I guess) sucks for higher-seeded #2 Memphis, but hey, the Tigers’ fans can cry foul on their behalf if they want to—they’re not getting any sympathy from me. :-)

There’s no justice

Inside of 30 seconds left in the game… score tied 55-all after a late 7-0 run by the Aggies… Acie Law pulls up, shoots—GOOD! Texas A&M leads, 57-55, with 22 seconds remaining in the game. 22 seconds until a miracle berth in the Sweet Sixteen.

LSU brings the ball up the court… Aggie defense extends well, no good looks for the Tigers… 6… 5… 4… LSU’s Darrel Mitchell pulls up for an NBA three-pointer with a hand in his face—followed by the sickening sound of nylon popping as the heave hits nothing but net. LSU leads, 58-57, with 3.9 seconds remaining.

Aggies come out of the timeout… uh-oh, having trouble inbounding the ball… OK, good, ball is inbounded to Josh Carter, Carter turns up court… and slips making the turn. Ball is loose… there’s a scramble… and the clock hits 00:00.

Never even got a shot up.

Game over.

No Sweet Sixteen.

Aggies lose by one. One. On a prayer to boot.

And my life shortens by another couple of years.

F*ck. I’d rather have lost in a blowout.

It’s been awhile

The last time Texas A&M men’s basketball team won an NCAA tournament game was in 1980, where they beat North Carolina and their vaunted “Four Corners” defense in double OT. That year ended with a loss to eventual national champion Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.

No, wait. The last time Texas A&M men’s basketball team won an NCAA tournament game was last night, where the #12 seed Aggies upset #5 seed (and 2003 national champion) Syracuse, 66-58. Sure, the second half got a little hairy, especially when the Ags—after opening up an 11-point lead—went about five minutes without scoring a bucket to let Syracuse back into the game. And sure, the game didn’t end til after midnight on the east coast, meaning getting up for work this morning sucked just a little more than usual. But it’s been almost 20 years since A&M has played a meaningful game this late in March, so ask me if I care.

Next up is #4 seed LSU for a shot at another Sweet Sixteen berth. After that (assuming there is an “after that”)—who knows? But it’ll be fun finding out.