January 14, 2009

A&M, Baylor ready for the next Battle on the Brazos

The rivalry between Texas A&M and Baylor on the basketball court had stayed dormant for decades as both programs annually finished near the bottom of the Big 12 conference. The Aggies were just plain bad while the Bears went through one of the most heinous controversies in all of college sports.

A&M, however, righted the ship quickly four seasons ago with three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. But to those clued into the college basketball scene in Texas it was apparent that Baylor head coach Scott Drew was building something in Waco.

Last season, Baylor finally joined the Aggies in the upper echelon of the Big 12, and the Battle on the Brazos boiled over. It first burst onto the scene with a five overtime thriller in College Station that no one saw unless you were in the Reed Arena. The Bears came away with a 116-110 win after 65 minutes of basketball, and television networks vowed never to let the game go without a telecast ever again.

The season series ended with the Aggie needing a must-win game in Waco, and A&M got it with a hard-fought 71-57 win that moved the Aggies closer to a NCAA tournament bid. It was a game that saw physical play on both sides, a bench clearing "discussion" that ended with two technical fouls and an exclamation point of a tomahawk dunk from A&M guard Donald Sloan that sent Baylor fans into a frenzy and Ferrell Center cleanup crews into remission as they witnessed the mess of bottles, wrappers and anything else you can imagine being showered onto Baylor's home floor.

Those two games are exactly what makes rivalries so great in college basketball, and what makes this one an interest to college basketball fans across the nation.

"I think it's a big rivalry. Whenever we play Baylor it's a big rivalry game just like when we play Texas," said A&M small forward Josh Carter. "I know we never like to lose to them at all and I'm sure they feel the same way about us. It's just really competitive and two teams not wanting to lose."

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