Entering play Thursday, Texas A&M was not even among the "Next Four Out" for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid via ESPN's Joe Lunardi or CBS Sports' Jerry Palm. After an upset of Florida in the SEC Tournament, the Aggies now officially are on the bubble, and they could perhaps assure a bid with a much bigger upset Friday against Associated Press No. 4 Auburn, the SEC regular-season champion. Tip is at noon ET from Tampa, Fla., with the Tigers opening at -9.5 at Caesars Sportsbook.
Texas A&M last made the NCAA Tournament in 2018 under former coach Billy Kennedy. Coach Buzz Williams has done a nice job in Year 3 as the Aggies improved to 21-11 (8-10 last year) with the 83-80 win over Florida on Thursday, probably ending UF's chances at the Big Dance. The Gators had rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final 3:17 of regulation to force overtime, but A&M won it on a three-pointer from Hassan Diarra with 0.4 seconds left in the OT.
It was the Aggies' fifth straight victory and they are now among Lunardi's "Next Four Out" and in Palm's "First Four Out" – with Florida, it should be mentioned. The Gators also lost in the regular season to Texas A&M, so there's no way the selection committee can take them over A&M.
Auburn (27-4) was the outright regular-season SEC champion and its 15 league wins were a school record. The Tigers have won the SEC Tournament title twice: In 2019 and 1985. If they win it this time, they surely will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Palm has Bruce Pearl's team as a No. 1 in the Midwest but Lunardi has the Tigers as a No. 2 seed – the highest No. 2. To make the Final Four, Auburn is currently +275 and to win the national title +1200.
Freshman Jabari Smith is in the discussion to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He averaged a team-leading 17.1 points per game while shooting 43.6 percent from behind the three-point arc. Transfer Walker Kessler was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, leading the nation in blocked shots at 4.5 per game.
Texas A&M is 1-1 all-time vs. Auburn in the SEC Tournament. They played once this season, a 75-58 Tigers home win Feb. 12 behind an amazing 12-block, 12-point, 11-rebound triple-double from Kessler. The Aggies shot 19-for-70 overall and 3-for-22 from deep. They have just one loss since.
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