Thursday , Mar , 16 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Aggies battle Orange in first round of NCAA Tournament

(Sports Network) – Fresh off their unexpected Big East Tournament
championship run, the fifth-seeded Syracuse Orange are set to battle the
12th-seeded Texas A&M Aggies in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
The winner will advance to take on either fourth-seeded LSU or 13th-seeded
Iona in the second round on Saturday.

Texas A&M was an at-large selection, and the program is making its first
NCAA Tournament appearance since 1987. The Aggies have never advanced
further than the Sweet 16, and they would probably have to score three
considerable upsets to reach the Elite Eight. They are coming off their best
Big 12 finish since the inception of the league in 1996 and have every reason
to be confident.

The same can be said of Syracuse, which repeated as champions of the nation’s
best conference. The Orange are making their 31st NCAA Tournament
appearance, including fourth straight, and they captured the National
Championship in 2003 when current senior standout Gerry McNamara was a
freshman. Considering that they were in serious jeopardy of being left out
of this event prior the Big East Tournament, these players showed a great deal
of toughness and are clearly peaking at the right time.

This game marks the first-ever meeting between Syracuse and Texas A&M on the

Texas A&M crushed a solid Colorado team in the Big 12 Tournament before losing
by four points to national powerhouse Texas. The Aggies beat the Longhorns
just a couple of weeks ago and have the ability to play with any team in the
country. Sophomore Joseph Jones is a Second Team All-Big 12 selection, while
junior Acie Law is a Third Team performer. Through 29 games, Law is averaging
15.9 ppg to go along with 111 assists and 46 steals, all three of which lead
the team. As for Jones, he is netting 15.8 ppg on 52.5 percent shooting from
the field, and he is also tops on the boards with 6.6 rpg.

Texas A&M is not an explosive offensive team, as it is averaging 69.2 ppg.
Fortunately, the club has been able to limit opponents to just 60.4 ppg on
41.4 percent efficiency from the field.

The aforementioned McNamara earned Big East Tournament MVP honors, silencing
critics who have referred to him as overrated. Sure, McNamara has struggled
with his shot through many stretches this season, but his ability to draw
defenders and get his teammates involved through his tremendous passing
ability can not go overlooked. He is currently averaging 16.4 ppg to place
ninth among all Big East players, and he is second in the league with six
assists per contest. His supporting cast consists of frontcourt performers
Demetris Nichols (13.6 ppg) and Terrence Roberts (10.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg), while
freshman Eric Devendorf (12.3 ppg) joins McNamara in the backcourt.

Syracuse is the lowest-seeded team to win the Big East Tournament, as it
entered last week’s event as the nine seed. Also, it became just the third
team to repeat as champs, as Georgetown and UConn have accomplished the feat
as well.