HOWARD

Texas A&M forward Anriel Howard (5) shoots a free-throw in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State, in Starkville, Miss., Sunday Feb. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The Texas A&M women’s basketball team needs at least two quality victories to be home for the start of the NCAA tournament.

The Aggies failed to make the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee’s final regular season Top 16 seeds which were announced Monday night. Those 16 teams if the season ended today would be hosts for first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games. A&M was included in the first two Top 16 rankings but the Aggies have gone only 6-4 since they were 14th for the first poll on Jan. 18. The most costly loss was the first one, falling 92-84 in overtime at home to Georgia. A&M slipped to 16th in the Feb. 1 poll and were out Monday.

A&M has three weeks to get back in the Top 16 for Selection Monday. It’s almost a given that A&M needs to beat Missouri on Sunday in the regular-season finale for that to happen. If A&M loses to Missouri it would need to beat two quality opponents at the SEC tournament. But if A&M loses to Missouri it won’t get a double-bye so that would mean the Aggies would need to win three straight games in Nashville. That would be a tall task for the Aggies who play their starters more than 30 minutes per game.

We assume right now, A&M is a No. 5 seed, probably along with Duke, Oregon State and N.C. State. LSU also could be in that mix. The committee said the resumes of the last few teams aren’t much different than those that just missed. That’s certainly the case when you consider Tennessee (21-6) was No. 12 coming off back-to-back losses, including a horrific home loss to Alabama (17-10). The committee’s teams behind Tennessee were Ohio State, Maryland, Georgia and Stanford. They all need a quality win or two to stay there.

Duke (21-7) on Monday got a leg up on the teams on the outside looking in with a huge 79-66 victory over Florida State, which the committee had ranked ninth. Duke will have a chance to get another quality at the ACC tournament.

Another reason to play close attention to the committee’s last four teams is it could tell us where A&M might end up. If the NCAA tournament started this weekend, A&M would be going to Ohio State, Maryland or Stanford. Can you say road trip? Georgia is out because you can’t have two teams from the same conference at the first site. Duke, with that win over Florida State, is also a possible destination.

It’s also interesting that the committee assigned regions this time. For example, No. 16 Stanford would be in the Albany Region, which includes top-ranked Connecticut. It’s a pretty safe bet UConn is going to stay the overall No. 1 seed, so you don’t want to be the No. 16 seed, because while you would have the chance to win two games at home, you would then have to play the Huskies. And in that scenario, you wouldn’t want to be the top No. 5 seed because you would be paired with Stanford. However, everything is subject to change. Let’s say the committee thought Oregon State was the best No. 5 seed, well, it couldn’t send California to Stanford because they are both in the Pac-12. The committee would have to adjust.

The bottom line for A&M is it needs to beat Missouri. The Tigers, who have beaten California (when it was ranked), South Carolina and Tennessee, seem a lock to make the Top 16, even if they lose to A&M. The Aggies have no bad losses, but they are only 1-5 against ranked teams.

A&M is 3-7 vs. the NCAA’s Top 50 RPI teams and that climbs to 8-8 against the Top 100. That’s why if A&M would beat Missouri and then reach the SEC tournament semifinals it would have chance to be home for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

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Here's the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee’s final regular season Top 16 seeds 

1, UConn (Albany)

2, Mississippi State (Kansas City)

3, Louisville (Lexington)

4, Notre Dame (Spokane)

5, Baylor (Lexington)

6, Oregon (Spokane)

7, South Carolina (Albany)

8, Texas (Kansas City)

9, Florida State (Albany)

10, UCLA (Kansas City)

11, Missouri (Spokane)

12, Tennessee (Lexington)

13, Ohio State (Lexington)

14, Maryland (Kansas City)

15, Georgia (Spokane)

16, Stanford (Albany)

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A&M was 14th on Jan. 18. Florida State was 11th followed by UCLA, Missouri, A&M, Rutgers and Georgia.

A&M was 16th on Feb. 1. Tennessee was 11th followed by Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, Michigan and A&M.

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