Horns Take Top 10 Ranking To Improved Aggies

Can the Aggies come out and play? We'll find out Wednesday when No. 9/10 Texas travels to College Station for what shapes up as the biggest game of first-year Aggie coach Billy Gillispie's brief tenure in College Station.

The Aggies bring an 11-1 mark to the hoops version of the on-going State Farm Lone Star Showdown between the ancient rivals. The Ws have come courtesy of one of the weakest non-conference slates in Division-I basketball. A slate that brings the likes of UT Permian-Basin and Trinity University to your home court -- the first 11 games were played in Reed Arena -- resulted in an RPI rating that hovered in the 225 range during A&M's undefeated non-conference run.

Still, the Aggies received a pair of votes in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, checking in at No. 46. Texas coach Rick Barnes, whose squad cracked the Top 10 for the first time this season (AP No. 10; ESPN/USA Today No. 9), said a resurgence of Aggie hoops would be good for both the Big 12 and for Longhorn basketball.

"It's good when other teams in the league get better," Barnes said. "One of the reasons why the (Atlantic Coast Conference) was getting so much publicity earlier this year was because they had five teams in the Top 10. You've got to want that for the Big 12."

Currently, the Big 12 has four teams in this week's AP national rankings (No. 2 Kansas, No. 6 Oklahoma State, Texas and No. 25-and-rising Oklahoma. The Sooners knocked off No. 12 Connecticut, 77-65, in Norman Monday.) Only two other conferences, the ACC and the Big East, currently boast four nationally-ranked teams).

"When another team gets better, it makes you better," Barnes said. "It's good for everybody in the league."

The Aggies most notable game this season is a 65-60 loss at Kansas (a week later the Jayhawks notched an eyebrow-raising win at Kentucky). A&M's most impressive win this season has been a 93-80 decision over a Tom Penders-coached Houston team. The Cougars then posted an impressive road win over Louisville. The only time this season that Barnes has seen the Aggies play was their surprising performance at Kansas.

"I was impressed with their intensity," Barnes said. "They played like they knew what they were looking for. They played hard, aggressive basketball. I liked their confidence level."

Again this year, the Aggies are led by junior F Antoine Wright, who is averaging nearly 18 points and six rebounds per game. Guard Acie Law has come on strong as of late, knocking down 25 points against Houston and averaging 13.2 ppg. The Longhorns have five players averaging in double-figures, led by sophomore F P.J. Tucker's 14 ppg. Freshman G Daniel Gibson is the team's second-leading scorer (12.7 ppg) but the Big 12 Rookie of The Week has averaged 17.5 points during the past two Longhorn wins.

The Aggies fired coach Melvin Watson after the Aggies failed to win a conference game in 2003-04, including an embarrassing sweep at the hands of a beleaguered Baylor program. Now, after watching Texas advance to a third consecutive Sweet Sixteen while Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight still commands national exposure as he closes in on the record as D-I's all-time winningest coach, the Aggies are determined to stake their claim as a hoops contender deep in the heart of football country. Obviously, the program would love nothing more than a signature win against its highly-ranked archrival.

The Longhorns and Aggies tip-off at 7p.m. (CST) in a Fox Sports Southwest regional broadcast.

Horns Digest Top Stories