I don’t have any choice but to root for Texas A&M tonight. A quick tour of my house will show that no room is free of sports paraphernalia of some kind, relating to either the Jayhawks or Aggies. I had thought maybe the bathrooms would be immune to this peculiarity that my wife and I share, but alas, my Jayhawks slippers are in mine, and her Aggie slippers are in hers. We are die-hard fans of our respective schools, and our decor reflects this. While my collection is split somewhat evenly between the Jayhawks and Chiefs, my wife has no such division of loyalties. She is an Aggie through and through.
Early in our relationship we came to an agreement, I would cheer for her Aggies during football season and she would root for my Jayhawks when basketball rolled around. It was a great arrangement for a few years, then Acie Law and Mark Mangino came to Lawrence. The Aggies had their first good basketball team in… well, forever- and the same could be said for Kansas’ football team. I can still remember the somewhat nervous look on her face when Texas A&M beat the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in 2007, our last loss at home before the current 69 game streak began.
Jayhawks football has since cooled off a bit, but the Aggies basketball program has taken hold. Bill Self’s best friend, Billy Gillispie brought prominence to an Aggie’s basketball program that never had much of a following, even in College Station. The Aggies had always been about football, this is Texas, after all. Gillispie eventually left Texas for the greener grass over the septic tank at Kentucky, and Topeka native and KU alum Mark Turgeon took over the program.
Mark has done an outstanding job at Texas A&M, sporting an 89-32 record in his three seasons. He is the only head coach to take the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in 3 consecutive years, and has the Aggies riding the longest winning streak in school history with 13 victories in a row. While this may seem like a small thing to a Jayhawk fan, it should serve to remind us how utterly spoiled we are to have such a great team, history and tradition. It also helps to explain why my wife was never much of a basketball fan.
Tonight, Turgeon will be leading his tenth ranked Aggies (16-1) into Austin to face off against eleventh ranked Texas (14-3). To say that there is no love lost between these two schools would be like saying Charles Manson was just a little ‘off.’ My wife’s sister went to Texas, and I can tell you from personal experience, their rivalry is every bit as heated as ours is with Mizzou. Tonight’s game could end up very much like the KU-UCLA game, with elbows being thrown, ejections, and hopefully even a few suspensions handed out.
The Jayhawks have the luxury of resting this week, but the Longhorns will be in a pitched battle tonight, before heading to Lawrence on Saturday. Texas A&M has beaten all three ranked opponents they have faced this season, and is fresh off an overtime victory over #12 Mizzou. While a win would no doubt be draining on the Longhorns, a loss at home to their arch-rivals could be devastating. Texas has beat A&M in 22 of the last 23 meetings in Austin, not losing since 2002.
Regardless of how they fare tonight, I don’t think Texas will be the team to ruin Kansas’ perfect record. I’ll be rooting for the Aggies, not only because of my wife, but because I would rather the Jayhawks face a Longhorn team that has had its’ confidence shaken, than just a tired team on the road. I hope I’ve given the Jayhawk Nation enough reasons to put the 2007 game aside, and cheer for the Aggies, too.
January 29 UPDATE:
The Aggies took a dive in Austin, but have a chance to avenge that loss tonight at College Station. This is the most likely game for the Longhorns to lose before the Big12 tournament. Texas plays Baylor twice, but the Bears haven’t lived up to expectations so far this year. Texas also has to travel to Nebraska and Colorado, who have both played well, despite their records.