February 22, 2010

A&M-BU rivalry becoming more civilized

Both Texas A&M and Baylor has seen resurgences in their basketball programs over recent years, even though each came out of much different circumstances. The Aggies emerged out of college basketball oblivion and have become one of the most successful Big 12 conference teams of the last decade while Baylor rose like a phoenix out of turmoil and controversy.

And although the two Texas schools parted by a 90-mile stretch of highway have mirrored each other in their elevation up the Big 12 ladder, the rivalry got jump-started in an ugly way. After a five overtime thriller in 2008 that saw Baylor win, 116-110, in College Station the rivalry was pushed into overdrive.

A&M's revenge came in Waco with a 71-57 win over the Bears that was mired by hard picks, bench-clearing "discussions" and debris flying onto the court after A&M guard Donald Sloan's punctuation dunk after a steal at the end of the game.

The rivalry was sent into overdrive quickly as the two fan bases, programs and teams seemed to have a major problem with each other.

But in the two years following the rivalry has simmered when it comes to the negative aspects of a rivalry, but it hasn't simmered on the court one bit. A&M has won the past four games since the five overtime loss with the Bears, but each has been a hard fought battle down to the wire.

"To have a rivalry you have to have two good teams that compete and it's not dominated by one team, and I think over the last three years it's become a very competitive basketball game," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. "I do think it's become a little bit friendlier rivalry than it was two years ago, and I think that's important for both our teams to have a little bit of a friendlier rivalry and shake hands before the game and shake hands after the game. I think it was that way here in our first game and I'm sure it'll be the same way there."

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