It’s been nine years since Texas A&M last reached the Sweet 16, and it looked like the Aggies’ 2016 run in March Madness was set to end on Sunday. But after a miracle comeback against Northern Iowa, the regular-season SEC champs are still alive with a chance to have their best NCAA Tournament finish in school history.
No.3 Texas A&M faces No.2 Oklahoma on Thursday night in the West Regional Semifinals. As the higher seed, the Sooners are 2.5-point favorites at Las Vegas sportsbooks, though the Aggies have a good chance to pull off the upset.
Winning their second-round game despite trailing by 12 points with 44 seconds remaining, Texas A&M pulled off the greatest comeback in college basketball history. The Aggies won in double-overtime, even though leading scorer Daniel House was held scoreless until the final minutes of regulation. The senior ended the game with 22 points and eight rebounds, and he’ll lead Texas A&M against the best player in the tournament.
Buddy Hield is averaging 25.4 points per game on the year, and he’ll likely be named the National Player of the Year. After scoring 27 points against No.15 CSU Bakersfield, Hield lifted Oklahoma past No.10 VCU by putting up 36 points on 20 field goal attempts. The Rams looked like they might be able to pull off the upset, but Hield put the Sooners on his back and scored twice as many points as any one of his teammates.
The Aggies might have a better chance to slow Hield down than many of the teams left in the tournament. Texas A&M gives up just 66.1 points per game, ranking them sixth of the 16 teams still vying for a national title. Oklahoma puts up 80.6 points per contest, and the Aggies fall just short of 77 points per game.
It was Texas A&M’s suffocating defense that helped them defeat Northern Iowa, forcing the Panthers into four turnovers in the final minute. Oklahoma turned the ball over 12 times against VCU, but the Sooners aren’t worried about their ability to hold onto a lead late in the game.
“No disregard to them,” Hield said, via ESPN.com, “but West Virginia’s probably the best pressing team in the country, so I don’t think it should be anything we haven’t seen before.”
Oklahoma faced West Virginia multiple times in Big 12 play, defeating the Mountaineers and their pressure defense two times during the regular season. West Virginia beat Oklahoma when they met for a third time in the Big 12 Tournament after Hield’s half-court buzzer-beater was waved off.
“Playing West Virginia definitely helps us because of how physical and how aggressive they are during the press, and how much they pride themselves on just getting deflections and constantly, consistently always attacking you,” Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins said. “I think just by us handling it during the season, it will definitely help us a lot.”
The winner of Thursday night’s game will go on to face the winner of the contest between No.1 Oregon and No.4 Duke. That game would take place on Saturday night with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Start Time: 7:37 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Online Stream: NCAA March Madness Live