Fans might have found the Texas A&M Aggies' thrilling 82-76 loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament at Hec Edmundson Pavilion to be easily among the best basketball games in Seattle last year and quite possibly the best game of the entire tournament.
But for the second-seeded Aggies, it was a disappointing end to a season with justifiably higher expectations.
Returning to the NCAA Tournament this season as a two-seed once again, the Aggies can enter with at least Elite Eight expectations. They have among the best defenses in the nation, extremely efficient point guard play from Sydney Colson, and a scorer in Danielle Adams who has proven that she can put up big points at any time. Even in losing smooth wing Tanisha Smith who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm, TAMU has actually gotten better this season as multiple players have raised their games.
And although their likely Elite Eight opponent in Dallas would unfortunately be the Big XII conference rival Baylor Lady Bears who have already beaten TAMU three times this season, a Final Four trip for coach Gary Blair's Aggies is not exactly out of the question either.
NCAA Women's Bracket 2011 Predictions: Texas A&M Could Get A Fourth Shot At Baylor In Dallas - Swish Appeal
...we can't really say that Baylor has established a decisive or insurmountable edge over TAMU. And what it comes down to more than anything is TAMU's ability to force turnovers and pressure Baylor guards into poor decisions, such as not getting the ball to Griner in position to score. The two teams are similar in their offensive rebounding ability, but that's a battle TAMU would also have to win. But the bottom line is that between TAMU's well-rounded defensive unit, Griner and Sims, this could easily be the best game of the tournament, all griping aside.
TAMU has to know they can beat Baylor, they just haven't done it yet. They are as good as any other contender for the Final Four not named Connecticut or Stanford. So while many lamented this pairing for TAMU's sake, it very well could end up being more unfortunate for Baylor whose Final Four hopes could go through a team that knows their game well and is hungry to beat a Big XII opponent.
At the same time, picking against a dominant 6-foot-8 shot blocker like Brittney Griner - whose offensive game appears to be developing by the day - is just too difficult to do. Nevertheless, we can expect an exciting game and perhaps TAMU involvement in among the most exciting games of the tournament once again.
Predictions from SBN's Swish Appeal:
#1 Baylor def. #16 Prairie View
#9 West Virginia def. #8 Houston (WVA is just a better all-around team in key ares like rebounding, shooting and turnovers. So...yeah.)
#5 Green Bay def. #12 University of Arkansas - Little Rock (Green Bay's rebounding advantage should win this one)
#4 Michigan State def. #13 Northern Iowa
#6 Georgia def. #11 MTSU
#3 Florida State def. #14 Samford (Having an All-ACC post player anchoring a dominant strength is an important factor)
#10 Louisiana Tech def. #7 Rutgers
#2 TAMU def. McNeese State
#1 Baylor def. #9 WVA
#5 Green Bay def. #4 Michigan State (What stands out about this one is GB's ability to create turnovers and allowing only 75.24 points per possession)
#3 FSU def #6 Georgia
#2 TAMU def. #10 La Tech
#1 Baylor def. #5 Green Bay
#2 TAMU def. #3 FSU (If turnovers caused problems for FSU throughout this season, TAMU will cause problems)
#1 Baylor def. #2 TAMU (This all comes down to how well Baylor's guards handle TAMU's pressure)
For more on the bracket, check out our Women’s NCAA Tournament StoryStream. For everything women’s NCAA hoops, stop by SBN's Swish Appeal. To fill out your own bracket and join Swish Appeal's writers in a bracket challenge, check out the Yahoo Women's Basketball Tournament Pick'Em.