New Rivals: Texas-Texas A&M
Aggies giving 'Horns a run in the Lone Star state
Posted: Tuesday November 20, 2007 11:45AM; Updated: Tuesday November 20, 2007 3:34PM
PROTAGONISTS: Acie Law IV, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, D.J. Augustin
HOW WE GOT HERE: If Texas were Ancient Greece, culture-rich Austin would be its Athens, while College Station, where Texas A&M was founded as an all-male military school in 1876, would be its Sparta. Even the cities' college basketball programs are falling in step with the analogy: The Longhorns adopted a free-flowing offense last season to better suit player of the year Kevin Durant and his sidekick D.J. Augustin, while the Aggies played defense with boot-camp intensity under former coach Billy Gillispie. It was a one-sided ordeal for years, as Texas still leads the series 128-80, but the real conflict -- the Third Peloponnesian War, perhaps? -- broke out when A&M was finally talented enough to put up a fight.
When the Longhorns reached the Final Four in 2003, the Aggies were still stuck in the Dark Ages of an extended NCAA tournament drought. A&M announced its revival as a worthy rival on March 1, 2006. Acie Law's buzzer-beating three-pointer, known simply as "The Shot," toppled Texas in College Station and helped the Aggies earn their first big-dance bid in 19 years. Law and Durant then waged two classic duels in 2007: At A&M, Law had 21 points and 15 assists in a victory; at Texas, Durant had 30 points and 16 boards to win in double overtime.
The rivalry would not exist if the two schools hadn't become so adept at controlling Texas' borders. Talent-poachers such as UConn (for Emeka Okafor), Illinois (for Deron Williams) and Georgia Tech (for Chris Bosh) took the state's stars earlier in the decade, but its new wave of talent is staying put. Every projected starter for both the 'Horns and Aggies in '07-08 attended high school in-state, and all but two were at least four-star recruits. Texas coach Rick Barnes duked it out with A&M for the state's top 2007 recruit, DeAndre Jordan. The 7-footer out of Houston landed in College Station -- along with his AAU coach, Byron Smith, who's on new Aggies coach Mark Turgeon's staff. The stakes of the war, once again, were raised.
TALKING THE TALK: "People say our rival is Oklahoma, but I think it's A&M. Coach showed us a video of Acie Law putting [Hook 'em Horns sign] down last year, which made me angry." -- D.J. Augustin.
WHEN THEY MEET: Jan. 30 in Austin, Feb. 18 in College Station
HEAT LEVEL: Broiling