Texas A&M gets a chance to bolster the case for a longshot NCAA Tournament at-large bid when it hosts Mississippi State in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday in College Station, Texas.
The Aggies (19-11, 8-9 SEC) have won four of their last five games after enduring an eight-game losing streak. They are coming off a resounding 87-71 road upset of #25 Alabama on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs (17-13, 8-9) rallied from a 19-point first-half deficit and squandered a five-point second-half lead in losing in overtime to #5 Auburn on Wednesday in Starkville, Miss.
“I do believe there has to be a crescendo to your team if you're wanting to play in post-season,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said, referring to how he believes his team has improved in consecutive victories against Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama. “As I just told our guys in the locker room, we can't assume anything. We're currently not in postseason. This was a huge step, but we still have work to do.”
Conversely, Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said after his team's loss, “In terms of the NCAA tournament, it's clear that we have to win the conference tournament (next week in Tampa, Fla.) to get (an NCAA bid).
“But (a victory) would help us to be seeded a little bit higher and we want to get our 18th win and we want to finish 9-9 in our league and not 8-10.”
A&M limited up-tempo Alabama to 3-for-11 (27.2 percent) shooting from 3-point range after halftime.
As Howland pointed out, the Bulldogs are in a 1-for-33 slump from beyond the arc in their last three games, which includes a win against Vanderbilt.
“Obviously our 3-point shooting is really impacting us,” Howland said. “And we spend a ton of time on shooting and we shoot a lot better in practice.”
Howland said the Aggies will pose a tough challenge on Saturday.
“They're really an unorthodox team that presses,” he added. “They play four guards and one big. They're trapping all the time. They're all over help side (on defense) on one side of the floor whenever the ball is on a wing so it's going to be a very tough game, but we've got to bounce back and play our best.”