No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (24-8, 12-4 Big Ten) vs. No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies (25-9, 11-5 SEC)
Monday, March 25, 8:30 p.m.
(Central) Reed Arena (College Station, Texas)
National TV: ESPN2 (Carter Blackburn-PBP; Maria Taylor-Analyst)
Radio: 25-Station IMG College Husker Sports Network (PBP-Matt Coatney; Analyst-Jeff Griesch) (107.3 FM-KBBK, Lincoln; 93.3 FM-KFFF, Omaha; 880 AM-KRVN, Lexington)
Free Internet Audio: Huskers.com
If there's one enormous difference between the men's and women's tournaments (OTHER THAN GENDER, DUH), it's that the women's tournament doesn't tend to give a rat's ass about court neutrality. The NCAA would rather sell tickets and that is understandable to a point. Ultimately what it does is help make sure that power structure in NCAA women's basketball tourney stays intact, why you see nearly no upsets in the first round, and why teams like UConn will perennially be in the title game.
The bottom line is this: Nebraska is facing one of the best teams in the nation on their home floor for a chance at the Sweet 16 - this won't be easy. The Huskers are 0-4 in true NCAA tourney road games, and 0-3 in second-round NCAA tourney games.
From the Nebraska press release, a preview of tonight's opponent, Texas A&M:
Coach Gary Blair leads his SEC Tournament champion Texas A&M squad to the NCAA Tournament second round for the seventh straight year. The Aggies, who are ranked No. 9 nationally by the Associated Press and 11th by USA Today, opened the 2013 NCAA Tournament with a 71-45 first-round win over Missouri Valley Conference champion Wichita State at Reed Arena in College Station on Saturday.
Last season, the Aggies advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 with two wins on their homecourt at Reed Arena, after winning the 2011 NCAA title.
Texas A&M ran to a 3-0 record in its first SEC Tournament, notching impressive wins over top-20 SEC foes South Carolina (61-52), Tennessee (66-62) and Kentucky (75-67) at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., March 8-10.
The Aggies, who enter the NCAA Tournament with a 25-9 overall record, went 11-5 in SEC regular-season play, suffering four losses in their final five SEC regular-season games. All four of those losses came to SEC foes in the NCAA Tournament, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and LSU. In fact, every loss for the Aggies this season came to a NCAA Tournament team, as A&M opened the year 0-3 with losses to Louisville, Penn State and Connecticut. The Aggies followed with eight straight wins before falling to Notre Dame. Overall, Texas A&M is 10-9 against NCAA Tournament teams this season.
Texas A&M is led on the court by All-SEC center Kelsey Bone. The 6-4 junior is averaging 16.7 points and 9.4 rebounds as an All-America candidate this season. Bone, who scored all 10 of her points in the second half against Wichita State, leads a balanced Aggie attack that also features 6-1 senior guard Kristi Bellock (10.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg), who led A&M with 18 points and six rebounds in the NCAA first-round win over Wichita State. Senior Adrienne Pratcher, a 5-7 point guard, has added 9.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Pratcher leads A&M with 41 three-pointers, while shooting 39.8 percent on the season.
In addition to the experience provided by Bone, Bellock and Pratcher, Texas A&M features several talented young freshmen, led by Courtney Walker. The 5-8 starting guard is averaging 10.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. Fellow freshman starter Courtney Williams, a 6-1 wing, has added 5.9 points and 2.7 boards per game, including 11 points, six rebounds and four assists Saturday against Wichita State. A third freshman, 5-11 guard Peyton Little, has pitched in 4.6 points and 1.2 boards off the bench, while ranking second on the team with 25 threes.
A fourth freshman, 6-7 center Rachel Mitchell (1.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg) sees action among A&M's top 10 players, behind Karla Gilbert. The 6-5 junior center averages 5.1 points and 3.3 boards spelling Bone off the bench. Sophomore guards Jordan Jones (2.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg) and Tori Scott (2.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg) round out the Aggie regulars.
Texas A&M is an efficient offensive team that shoots 45.7 percent from the field, including 35.0 percent from three-point range. The Aggies do not shoot a lot of threes, averaging fewer than 10 long-range attempts per contest. In fact, with 309 attempts on the year, A&M has attempted fewer threes than Nebraska attempted in Big Ten regular-season games only (323). The Aggies are a 68.2 percent free throw shooting team. A&M owns a plus-5.0 team rebounding margin, while averaging 70.1 points per game. A&M is a solid defensive unit, surrendering just 57.3 points per contest, while holding opponents to just 37.6 percent shooting on the year. Aggie foes are shooting just 28.1 percent from three-point range.