February 24, 2009

A&M, Nebraska have a lot riding on game

With the NCAA tournament bubble seemingly widening and deepening by the day, Texas A&M's hopes of a bid in the Big Dance is still very much alive and well. But for the Aggies, just like so many teams on the bubble this season, the room for error is slim.

With a favorable schedule on the horizon with 2-10 Iowa State and 1-11 Colorado down the stretch before getting No. 8 Missouri at home on senior day, the Aggies definitely have a chance to go on a season-ending win streak to give them a solid punctuation to the season going into the Big 12 tournament and Selection Sunday.

But Tuesday night's 8:30 p.m. matchup with Nebraska at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln may be the swing game that either spurs the Aggies onto a promising path towards the NCAA tournament or sees them crash and burn before really getting back into the mix with a lot of steam.

"We look at all our games that way, but I think this game could be a deciding factor," said A&M junior forward Chinemelu Elonu. "I really do because they're very well coached and a very defense-oriented team and it's another road game. I think this game right here could be the deciding factor."

Nebraska is much like the Aggies as the Cornhuskers sit squarely on the bubble at this point. They don't have nearly the computer number of the Aggies with a RPI at No. 64. With a strength of schedule of 39, the reason for the lower RPI is a non-conference schedule that included losses at Oregon State and at home to Maryland-Baltimore County. The Huskers also started off the conference season with a loss to Iowa State on the road, but that came on the heels of a home win over Missouri.

And that's the kicker. Nebraska has been much, much better at home this season, the loss to UMBC notwithstanding. The Cornhuskers have lost twice at home in the Big 12, once to Oklahoma State in overtime and again to Kansas in a game that came down to the wire. Home wins include a 22-point throttling of Kansas State and a comeback three-point win over Texas.

A win for Nebraska over A&M would be huge on Selection Sunday should the Huskers finish the season strong. A&M has the better computer numbers with a RPI of 38, a strength of schedule of 27 and a 4-5 record against the top 50 in the RPI. But it would be hard to put a team like the Aggies in the tournament over a Nebraska squad with an equal or better Big 12 mark and a win over the Aggies.

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