Published March 07, 2011
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair says his defending-champion Aggies will use the Big 12 tournament as a launch pad for what they hope is a long NCAA run.
Eighth-ranked A&M (25-4, 13-3) is the second seed in the Big 12 tournament behind third-ranked Baylor (28-2, 15-1). No. 3-seeded Oklahoma (20-10, 10-6) and fourth-seeded Kansas State (20-9, 10-6) also have first-round byes.
First-round games begin Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo.
They include No. 9 seed Colorado (15-14, 6-10) against No. 8 Kansas (19-11, 6-10), No. 12 Nebraska (13-17, 3-13) against No. 5 Iowa State (21-9, 9-7), No. 10 Missouri (13-17, 5-11) against No. 7 Texas (18-12, 7-9) and No. 11 Oklahoma State (16-13, 4-12) against No. 6 Texas Tech (21-9, 8-8).
Second-round games are Wednesday, semifinals are Friday and the championship game is Saturday.
Blair is confident that no matter what happens this week, his Aggies will be no lower than a No. 2 NCAA seed. Last year, A&M had to win the conference tournament to earn a No. 2 seed.
"I like what our record is. I've got a goal: stay undefeated in November, lose once in December, once in January, once in February and once in early March and then stay undefeated the rest of the way," Blair said, describing the Aggies' regular season. "It's simple. That would work."
If all goes according to form, the Aggies would have to beat Baylor to win their third Big 12 tournament in four years. The Aggies have lost seven straight to Baylor, including defeats of 63-60 and 67-58 this season.
The Bears, who won their first regular-season title since 2005, are projected to be No. 1 NCAA seeds even if they lose in Kansas City.
Baylor's main attraction for two years has been the 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, who has scored in double figures in 63 of her 64 career games, including 20 20-point performances this season.
But freshman point guard Odyssey Sims has lived up to her billing as the No. 1 recruit in the nation last year. She's scored 10 or more points in 21 games. Her season highlight came Feb. 27, when she made a school-record nine 3-pointers and scored 37 points in an 82-81 win over Oklahoma.
"She's not just showing the Big 12 her talents," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "She showed it against Connecticut, she showed it against Tennessee, she showed it against the best teams in the country."
Oklahoma has gone 5-7 against a tough finishing schedule and heads to Kansas City ranked 21st after a 61-56 loss at Texas Tech.
Kansas State is on a mini roll after upsetting Texas A&M and beating archrival Kansas last week. Wildcats coach Deb Patterson will be going for her 300th career win on Wednesday.
Texas A&M is led by senior center Danielle Adams, who will return to her hometown as the Big 12's leading scorer (23.3 ppg) and No. 2 rebounder (8.5).
"She has an air of confidence about her," Blair said. "Everybody has tried every different things on her, and I do not believe people can guard her effectively man-to-man."
The Aggies open against Missouri or Texas. The Aggies beat Missouri by 45 points in January and split their season series with the Longhorns.
"We're going to be ready to go out and run against teams, and I'm just excited," said senior guard Sydney Colson. "We're there to take care of business. We have a goal in mind, and finishing well in the Big 12 tournament will hopefully help us out with a good seed in the (NCAA) tournament and put ourselves in a really good situation to succeed and make it to the Final Four."
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in College Station, Texas, contributed to this report.