Yeah, Texas A&M blew a huge lead at Florida State for its first loss of the season on Monday. Meanwhile, Texas got in a giant hole at Purdue, missed shots inside as if that were an art form, and lost its second game in a week’s time.
No big deal.
Yes, I know some folks might think that the Aggies and Longhorns may have made a mistake by playing tough games on the road before Big 12 season starts. I couldn’t disagree more. If you look at what these two programs realistically hope to accomplish, then it makes sense for them to have faced these challenges.
This is not, as they say, the first rodeo for Gary Blair and Gail Goestenkors. He’s built three programs and been to a Final Four; she built a major powerhouse and went to four Final Fours. I think they know what they’re doing.
Both want to get their programs to a national championship level, and the only way you do that is playing tough competition. You expose your weaknesses to yourself, so you can work on them.
Texas got schooled in the paint by Purdue – and that’s likely something that the Longhorns will have to face all season. They lack bulk inside, but Monday they also lacked concentration and focus. Once they had found solutions to Purdue’s defense, they still didn’t score because they missed shots they could have made.
The Horns ought to be ticked off at themselves. That will be good for them this week in practice. If they thought they were going to cruise into Lubbock on Saturday and dismiss Texas Tech, they sure don’t think that anymore.
Meanwhile, with Blair’s emphasis on defense, the Aggies always have to be wary of their capacity to go into the equivalent of an offensive coma. It happened against the Seminoles, and I can’t say I was surprised. Looking at the schedule, I really figured this game would be trouble for them.
Purdue and Florida State aren’t ranked, but that’s of little importance. Maybe of no importance, actually. Purdue is Purdue, the gold standard of Big Ten women’s basketball even in those seasons the league comes up tin. The Boilermakers lost point guard FahKara Malone to a dislocated finger in their last game – a loss to Michigan State – but freshman Brittany Rayburn stepped in against Texas with 19 points.
Purdue is 9-5, but look at the teams the Boilers have played, which include Stanford, Notre Dame and Maryland. Purdue has used the non-conference to get itself ready for the postseason.
Florida State has been to the NCAA tournament the past four seasons. Remember, the Seminoles came within a one-point loss in overtime to Oklahoma State last year of making the Sweet 16. FSU is 12-4 this season, with one of its losses being to UConn.
Whatever hopes Missouri had of catching Texas A&M in complacency mode in their Big 12 opener on Saturday were dashed by the Seminoles.
Look, neither the Longhorns nor the Aggies were going to go undefeated this season. There was no chance. They weren’t chasing perfection, or anything like it. What they are trying to do is maximize their talent by March. And to that end, it helps to play good non-conference teams that are very likely going to be busy in March, too.