OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- With room to add more hardware in its newly-stocked trophy case, the top-seeded Texas A&M women’s basketball team (23-5) hopes its next destination presents more opportunities to pursue more firsts in the program’s 33-year history.
The Aggies captured their first-ever Big 12 Conference crown with a 67-60 victory over rival Texas (17-13) in both team’s regular season finale on Feb. 28. A&M earned the top seed in the tournament and will face either No. 8-seeded Colorado (12-16) or No. 9-seeded Texas Tech (15-15) in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship on Wednesday, March 7 at noon (CT). The tournament will run from March 6-8 & 10 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. A&M and No. 2-seeded Oklahoma (23-4) tied as co-champions with 13-3 marks in league play. It marked the most victories for the Aggies since the league’s formation in 1996-97. A&M won the tiebreaker over OU to land the top seed for the first time in league history. Their path to Oklahoma City included sweeps of the defending Big 12 champion Sooners and 2005 NCAA champion Lady Bears in the home-and-home series. In fact, A&M swept all four top seeds in regular season head-to-head competition. No. 3-seeded Baylor (24-6) and No. 4-seeded Nebraska (22-8) also received first-round byes. The Aggies have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games and capped off the season with their first undefeated season at home with a 16-0 mark at Reed Arena. They are 5-1 against the top 25 this season and have been ranked in both national polls the entire 2006-07 season. A&M is looking to add a tournament trophy to its hardware, but has only advanced as far as the semifinals in Big 12 tournament action.
ON THE TUBE
Once again, the Aggies will have the opportunity to showcase their talents before a national audience this week as all Big 12 quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net. Texas A&M will play the first of four quarterfinal games at noon. The veteran crew of Kevin Eschenfelder and Debbie Antonelli will provide play-by-play and color commentary for the live broadcast from the Cox Convention Center. Fans throughout the country can watch the game on FSN Arizona, FSN Bay Area, FSN Detroit, FSN Florida, FSN Midwest, FSN New England, FSN New York, FSN North (Wisconsin), FSN Northwest, FSN Ohio, FSN Pittsburgh, FSN Rocky Mountain, FSN South, FSN Southwest, FSN West, Comcast Mid Atlantic, Comcast Philadelphia and Comcast Chicago. A tape-delayed broadcast will be aired on FSN North (Minnesota) at 1 a.m. Check your local listings. Not shy of the limelight, the Aggies have been successful this season compiling a 6-1 record when playing on the tube. They are 4-1 when playing on FSN.
AGGIES IN POSTSEASON PLAY
In the 11-year existence of the league, Texas A&M is 2-10 all-time in Big 12 Championship games. Last season, the third-seeded Aggies moved on to the semifinals for the first time in league history and picked up only their second all-time win in postseason tournament play with a 73-64 victory over sixth-seeded Nebraska in quarterfinal action. A&M later lost a heartbreaker against second-seeded Baylor (53-52) in the semis. The Aggies have only reached the title game of a conference tournament once before in the final season of the old Southwest Conference in 1995-96. A&M made history by beating rival Texas in the semifinals (75-61) with a date waiting in the wings against Texas Tech in the finals. The Lady Raiders, ranked No. 7 nationally at the time, were in for a shock. Playing at Dallas’ Reunion Arena, the Aggies outlasted Tech, 72-68, to claim the program’s first-ever conference tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history with the league’s automatic bid. The 1995-96 squad will be forever linked as the final SWC Champions. In Big 12 Championship competition, A&M has only beaten the No. 6 and 7 seeds all-time in the tournament. They have faced seven of the 11 schools in postseason play except for Colorado, Kansas State, Kansas and Texas Tech. They have never appeared in the title tilt since the league’s formation in 1996-97.
TOURNAMENT AND BRACKET OVERVIEW
Being the No. 1 seed could work in the favor of the Aggies when looking at the past success of top seeds in the tournament. Seven No. 1 seeds in 10 overall Big 12 Championships have gone on to win the tournament title. Colorado won as a No. 3 seed in 1997, Iowa State a No. 3 seed in 2001 and OU a No. 6 seed in 2004. The inaugural championship game in 1997 was the first and only matchup played without a No. 1 seed remaining. Two Big 12 South teams have appeared in the Big 12 Championship game in four of the last five years with OU winning three of the last five tournaments. In regular season play, the Aggies posted a 4-2 record against teams seeded in their side of the bracket and went 5-0 against the top four seeds including a sweep of OU, sweep of Baylor and win over Nebraska. The five other teams in their bracket (Colorado, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Nebraska and Iowa State) combined for only 36 victories in league competition, while the other side (Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Kansas) combined for 47. In fact, two of A&M’s three losses this season came against Big 12 North foes in Kansas State (48-45) on Jan. 6 in the league opener and Iowa State (61-54) on Feb. 14. Tech and A&M are the only two Big 12 South schools in the top half of the 12-team bracket.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS
The Aggies should be a lock for the NCAA Tournament with a 23-5 overall record, but wins in conference tournament play can only pay dividends once Selection Monday comes around and top seeds are handed out by the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Selection Committee. It could mean the difference of playing close to home or having to travel to either coast. Last season, A&M was seeded a program-best No. 6 in the Cleveland Regional and traveled for NCAA First and Second Round action in Trenton, N.J. Regional sites this year include Dallas, Fresno, Calif., Greensboro, N.C. and Dayton, Ohio. First-and second-round sites include Austin, Minneapolis, Stanford, Los Angeles, East Lansing, Mich., Hartford, Conn., Pittsburgh and Raleigh, N.C.
START SPREADING THE NEWS
Make sure to pick up a copy of this week’s Sports Illustrated available on newsstands throughout the country. Aggie Basketball will be featured in a college basketball article featuring both program’s rise among the nation’s elite and top of the Big 12 Conference.
Colorado won two of its last five games of the regular season against both of the Kansas schools to post a 6-10 record in league play. The Buffaloes tied Texas and Texas Tech for seventh-place in the final league standings. It was the program’s best Big 12 finish in three years after placing 11th in back-to-back seasons. CU has posted three more wins from last year’s 9-21 campaign and will be looking to pull off some upsets in tournament play. Junior forward Jackie McFarland, an All-Big 12 First Team performer, is averaging a team-leading double-double with 17.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. The Buffs won the inaugural tournament title in 1997 and will battle Texas Tech in their first-round matchup. They previously beat the Lady Raiders (70-67) in regular season action on Feb. 3.
SCOUTING TEXAS TECH
In jeopardy of missing its second consecutive NCAA Tournament, Texas Tech is faced with the daunting task of having to win out and earn the league’s automatic bid to keep their postseason dreams alive. The Lady Raiders lost their last four games of the season including seven of their last eight. Their six league wins this season included victories over Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri and a sweep of Oklahoma State. Tech tied Colorado and Texas for seventh-place which marked only the second time in league history for the Lady Raiders to finish lower than fifth. They previously finished seventh with an 8-8 record in 2002 under Hall of Fame coach Marsha Sharp. Senior Alesha Robertson leads the upset-minded Lady Raiders averaging a team-leading 13.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. Name 2006-07 Stats
10 A’Quonesia Franklin, G, 5-3, Jr. 10.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg
3 Takia Starks, G, 5-8, So. 14.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg
21 Morenike Atunrase, G/F, 5-10, Jr. 11.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg
24 Patrice Reado, F, 6-0, Jr. 7.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg
12 La Toya Micheaux, C, 6-3, So. 6.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg
No. Name 2006-07 Stats
1 Whitney Houston, G, 5-5, Fr. 8.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg
3 Susie Powers, G, 5-10, Jr. 3.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg
21 Jasmina Ilic, G/F, 6-1, Sr. 12.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg
45 Jackie McFarland, F, 6-3, Jr. 17.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg
44 Kara Richards, C, 6-4, So. 7.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg
No. Name 2006-07 Stats
10 Brooke Baughman, G, 5-10, Sr. 6.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg
13 Jordan Murphree, G, 6-0, Fr. 9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg
23 LaVonda Henderson, G, 5-7, So. 5.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
55 Alesha Robertson, F, 6-0, Sr. 13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg
33 Patrice Edwards, C, 6-6, Sr. 8.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg
2006-07 Category TAMU CU TTU
Overall Record 23-5 12-16 15-15
Big 12 Record 13-3 6-10 6-10
Points Per Game 67.2 64.3 63.7
Scoring Margin +13.5 -3.1 +1.7
Rebounds Per Game 38.1 38.0 39.1
Rebounding Margin +3.0 +2.3 +1.3
Field Goal Percentage 42.2 42.5 40.3
Field Goal% Defense 42.2 42.5 40.3
Three-Point FG% 37.6 31.2 32.1
Free Throw Percentage 64.3 68.2 69.5
Turnovers Per Game 16.6 20.6 17.2
Assists Per Game 15.9 11.9 12.9
Blocks Per Game 4.9 3.6 4.4
Steals Per Game 10.5 7.6 8.1
Texas Tech leads 52-11 and Colorado leads 10-4 in the all-time series versus Texas A&M. The Aggies have never met either team in postseason play. A&M swept Texas Tech for the first time in the Big 12 era with a 49-47 victory in Lubbock on Jan. 10 and a 67-51 (+16) win in College Station on Feb. 21. The Aggies also defeated Colorado at home on 74-58 (+16) on Jan. 18. Two of the those three matchups against the Lady Raiders and Buffaloes combined marked the largest margin of victories in league play for A&M. The game against CU was rescheduled a day later due to weather. The Aggies lead 4-2 when playing Tech on a neutral court. They have never met CU at a neutral site in 14 all-time meetings between the two schools. Texas A&M trails in the all-time series versus Iowa State (2-12), Kansas (5-7), Kansas State (4-10), Missouri (5-7), Nebraska (6-12), Oklahoma (10-23), Oklahoma State (13-19) and Texas (13-58). They are tied with Baylor (36-36) after sweeping the Lady Bears for only the second time in the Big 12 era during the regular season.
OH, HOW FAR WE’VE COME …
The Aggies have posted their best record in a two-year span since the league’s formation in 1996-97. They tied for third-place a year ago with an 11-5 mark and tied for first-place this season with a program-best 13-3 mark. Over the last two seasons, A&M has compiled an impressive 24-8 record which is four wins short of A&M’s total wins in nine seasons prior (28-116). Up until last year, the Aggies had never finished higher than ninth in the league and posted more than 10 wins in Big 12 play. They have come a long way from the annual depths of the conference to a rise to the top and Big 12 Championship in tow. What a year it has been so far for Texas A&M Athletics overall as the Aggies have won Big 12 titles in women’s soccer, women’s swimming, women’s indoor track and now women’s basketball.
GUNNING FOR WIN NO. 24
Texas A&M will be gunning for its 24th victory of the season which would tie for the second-most wins in school history behind the program’s 24-9 campaign in 1974-75 as members of the AIAW. Women’s basketball was not a fully-funded varsity sport until the 1975-76 season as the 1974-75 squad was sponsored by the A&M Physical Education Department and Athletic Department. A&M has compiled 20-win seasons seven times in 1974-75 (24-9), 1978-79 (26-18), 1993-94 (23-8), 2005-06 (23-9), 2006-07 (23-5), 1994-95 (21-9) and 1995-96 (20-12). The Aggies advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1993-94. No matter what happens in postseason play, mathematically the odds are in favor of the Aggies recording their fewest losses in a single season since 1993-94 (23-8).
UNDEFEATED AT HOME
A&M posted its first undefeated season at home in the 33-year history of the program with a 16-0 record at Reed Arena. The Aggies were one of eight Division I schools nationally to go unblemished at home this season along with James Madison (13-0), Duke (14-0), Delaware (13-0), George Washington (13-0), Louisville (17-0), Montana (15-0), Marist (12-0) and Belmont (12-0). A&M has won 18-straight games at Reed Arena which broke the school-record for most consecutive wins at home to pass up the previous mark of 17-straight games set in 1994-95.
AGGIE HONOR ROLL
The postseason awards keep on pouring in as Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair was named Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Aggies to their first-ever women’s basketball conference title with a 67-60 victory over Texas on Feb. 28. Blair previously was named Southland Conference Coach of the Year five times (1988, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993) while the head coach at mid-major Stephen F. Austin from 1985-93. He later coached in the Southeastern Conference at Arkansas from 1993-03. This is his first major conference honor of his 22-year coaching career. All-Big 12 First Team honors were bestowed on junior A’Quonesia Franklin and sophomore Takia Starks, while sophomore forward/guard Danielle Gant garnered the league’s inaugural Sixth Man Award. Gant was a triple award winner with a spot on the All-Big 12 Second Team and inaugural Big 12 All-Defensive Team along with sophomore center La Toya Micheaux.
TIME FOR MORE AQUA
Texas A&M’s A’Quonesia Franklin was named Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, while Oklahoma State’s Danielle Green was selected as Rookie of the Week for final regular season games played. Last week, Franklin led No. 14 Texas A&M to its first-ever Big 12 Conference title and first undefeated season at home in the 33-year history of the program with a 67-60 victory over rival Texas in the regular season finale on Feb. 28. Franklin scored a career-and game-high 27 points against the Longhorns. It marked her fifth 20-point game of her career. She knocked down four of the team’s eight three-pointers of the game and made a career-best 7-of-9 from the free throw line. Franklin also dished out four assists to move into the top five all-time in career assists (439) in the Texas A&M record books. For the 11th time this season she played all 40 minutes of the game and is averaging 34.7 minutes per game. She has distributed the ball 134 times this season and has already recorded her third-straight 100+ assist season to become the third player in school history to do so along with former A&M standouts Toccara Williams (2000-04) and All-American Lisa Branch (1992-96). Franklin has scored in double figures in eight of the team’s last nine outings. She ranks 45th nationally in assists per game (4.8) and 30th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.94) as of Feb. 26. Her team-leading averages rank fifth-best in the Big 12 in assists and tops in assist-to-turnover ratio through all games played. Franklin was honored for the second time this season next to player of the week honors on Feb. 12. She has played and started in all 28 games of the season.
LAST TIME OUT
Junior point guard A’Quonesia Franklin made four free throws in the final minute and scored a career-high 27 points to lead No. 14 Texas A&M to a 67-60 win over Texas to earn a share of the Big 12 Conference title on Feb. 28. Texas A&M needed Baylor to beat Oklahoma to win the conference title outright, but the Sooners cruised to an 88-61 win. Still, it marked the first time in school history the Aggies have won a conference title. Brittainey Raven scored a career high 19 points and Tiffany Jackson added 19 for Texas. The Aggies led 61-58 before Texas was forced to foul Franklin, who made both free throws with 33.5 seconds left. Jackson’s three-point attempt at the other end bounced off the rim and Texas fouled Franklin again with 19 seconds remaining. Franklin responded by hitting two more free throws to put the game out of reach. The Aggies led by seven before four quick points by Texas, capped by a fastbreak layup by Erneisha Bailey, pulled the Longhorns to 61-58 with 1:48 remaining. Texas never led in the second half, but got within one point once and hung around until Texas A&M put the game away in the final seconds.
AGGIES IN THE RPI
The Aggies are currently No. 16 in the Jeff Sagarin/CBN Women’s College Basketball Ratings as of March 4. Eleven Big 12 schools are rated among the top 100 RPI teams in the nation including Oklahoma (10), Baylor (12), Texas A&M (21), Iowa State (26), Texas (34), Nebraska (35), Texas Tech (44), Oklahoma State (49), Missouri (57), Kansas State (78) and Colorado (94) according to CollegeRPI.com. The Big 12 is rated the second-toughest conference in the country behind the SEC. The Aggies have posted a 4-1 record against teams rated in the top 30 of the indexes. A&M has also played top 100 non-conference opponents in Washington (42), West Virginia (40) and Rice (87). The Aggies RPI could get a boost with postseason tournament play in progress for most of its non-conference opponents.
AGGIES ON THE RADIO
All Texas A&M women’s basketball games can be heard via a radio broadcast on the Texas A&M Sports Network. Tom Turbiville (play-by-play) and Amy Wright (color analyst) will call the action live from the Cox Convention Center on KZNE 1150 AM The Zone.