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Gary Blair: "There's going to be a lot of teams that might only get in 12 to 13 games"
POSTED: November 18, 2020 -- 9:45 a.m. CT
Gary Blair, Head Coach of the Texas A&M Aggies women's basketball team is looking forward to the 2020-21 college basketball season.
"I really love my basketball team," Coach Blair said during his Tuesday media session. "I think we've got a lot of really interesting parts to the puzzle; but, the puzzle cannot be put together until we see what it can do in live action."
During the call, I asked him if he had any thoughts on what the women's basketball committee will do for the 2021 NCAA Tournament in terms of bubble / controlled environment - 1 geographic location - like the men's basketball committee decided to do for the 2021 Men's Tournament?
His answer was very thorough (as usual) and included his thoughts on the number of games he thinks some teams may end up playing the season as well as the most important person on the Aggies' staff -- due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Well, if they decide to go to San Antone," Coach Blair said. (Yes, he said San Antone rather than San Antonio.) "I'll vote for that because that's in the state of Texas and that's where our (2021) Final Four is supposed to be. There's a lot of facilities there; and, if you're limiting crowds anyway, they've got some very good high school programs as well.
"You've got Incarnate Word there. You've got UTSA which I used to play. Both of those schools are in the Southland Conference. Besides the Alamodome and where the Spurs play, there's so many different options. If it's going to make us safe and have an NCAA Tournament, let's do it. Heck, with the homecourt advantage, let's have the best basketball that we can possibly have. Let's get through COVID 2020 and 2021.
"But, there's going to be a lot of teams that might only get in 12 to 13 games; and, then, some others are going to get in their full quota of 25. And, how do you measure which teams deserve to go to the NCAA Tournament. And, I really believe the larger conferences - if we stay clean and play, they're going to get more the benefit than the Cinderella teams from the smaller conferences.
"It'll be an eye test like it is in other sports sometimes. It'll be an eye test. How many tough conference games were you able to play and how did you do?
"I really don't think that the most important thing - this might sound crazy - winning the national championship shouldn't be the number one goal this year. It is being competitive; staying healthy; and having a season for these young people. We've been through a lot."
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"The most important person on our staff is our psychologist who's having to work with so many kids in different areas in what's gone on," Coach Blair acknowledged. "Jordan Nixon (redshirt-sophomore guard from New York who transferred from Notre Dame to Texas A&M) lost 4 people to COVID in New York City right when it was going on (earlier this year) including her granddad and her high school coach. Lost 4 people. Now, think about that. These are people not necessarily in there 80s and 90s. How do you deal with that as a young person 18 to 22?"
"I want to get the season through where everybody can say 'We got better because of it. We accepted the challenge. We did something about it; and, we're making this world, hopefully, a better place and giving people hope by being able to turn on the tv set and watch something besides my five favorite shows: Bull; NCIS New Orleans; Chicago Fire; Chicago PD; or ESPN. Those are my mainstays. I want to watch live sports just like we had the opportunity to see so much WNBA this summer and so much NBA in the bubble.
"Well, we're not in the bubble on individual campuses. We're in the bubble, maybe, if we all get to San Antone; and, I'd like all 64 teams to have to go to San Antone. Not just the final four. But, that's months away and vaccine is near. Vaccine is near."
The Aggies' season opener is Wednesday, November 25, with a noon tip-off inside Reed Arena, versus Lamar. Lamar's head coach is A'Quonesia "Aqua" Franklin. Coach Franklin played for Coach Blair at Texas A&M from 2004-2008. She was selected to the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
"If anybody is ready for a head coaching job, it's A'Quonesia," Coach Blair said. "And, I hope the fans that are in the stands realize that she's one of ours. Be proud of her for all of her accomplishments."
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