COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Texas A&M women's basketball program announced its 2012-13 Southeastern Conference (SEC) schedule on Friday.
The Aggies' inaugural, 16-game SEC slate features two ESPN Big Monday games, one of which is included in a three-game home stretch during the month of February. A&M, however, must face all of the teams that finished at the top of the conference a year ago, on the road.
"By far, this is the hardest schedule we've ever played since I've been at A&M," 10th year head coach Gary Blair said. "It's a blend of former national champions and teams that are picked in the top 25. We have to go through so many land mines in the SEC. It will be fun to make teams' acquaintance and to renew old rivalries.
"The SEC is a challenge in itself, but with seven freshmen and the schedule we inherited, it will make for a great year for the fans. Especially knowing that we're also hosting the NCAA First and Second Rounds for the second year in-a-row, I encourage the 12th Man to come out and support us."
In the league's first year with a 14-team schedule, Texas A&M opens the rigorous SEC slate at home game against Alabama on Thursday, Jan. 3. The conference schedule is a single round robin with one permanent opponent and two random opponents. The permanent opponents are: Alabama - Auburn; Arkansas - Missouri; Florida - Georgia; Kentucky - South Carolina; LSU - Texas A&M; Ole Miss - Mississippi State; and Tennessee - Vanderbilt. The random opponents will change annually.
The Aggies will host a school-record 17 regular-season games at Reed Arena during the 2012-13 season.
On Sunday, Jan. 6, A&M's first road game will bring Blair and company back to Fayetteville, Ark., where he spent 10 years as the head women's basketball coach. Associate head coach Kelly Bond-White and assistant coach Amy Wright also have ties to Arkansas. Bond-White was an assistant under Blair in his final three seasons and Wright started four seasons under Blair from 1999-02. The two teams met just a year ago in a tight contest that saw A&M advance to the NCAA Sweet 16. This game is sure to renew a rivalry with the old Southwest Conference foe.
"Since Arkansas had to come to our place during the NCAA Tournament, it's probably only right that we're going to Arkansas," Blair said. "It's only right for me to be able to go back and see my family in Fayetteville, since I haven't been able to play there in 10 years. It will be a homecoming of sorts, but at the same time I'm sure Coach Collen will have his team fired up and ready to play."
The Aggies travel into unfamiliar territory in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday, Jan. 10 for their first meeting with Kentucky. The Wildcats made a run to the Elite Eight last spring.
A home contest against Auburn on Sunday, Jan. 13 is followed by road games at Georgia on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and at Mississippi State on Thursday, Jan. 24. The Aggies' first matchup with UGA came in 2011 when A&M cruised past the Lady Bulldogs in the Sweet 16 enroute to its first NCAA National Championship. Earlier that season, A&M also downed first-time opponent Mississippi State. It will mark Blair's first matchup against former A&M associate head coach and current MSU head coach, Vic Schaefer.
"It's going to be fun," Blair said. "He has an all Aggie staff that has helped build this program at A&M and I'm sure they will build a program at Mississippi State. Since we started a home-and-home series with them while we were in the Big 12, it was imperative we went to Mississippi State this year to return the favor and at least start the contract at their place."
As announced yesterday, two of A&M's games have been moved off the traditional Sunday play date to be featured in ESPN's Big Monday package. On Feb. 4, A&M will travel to LSU for an 8 p.m. (CT) tip and on Feb. 18, Kentucky will play at A&M in a Play 4Kay game set for 6 p.m. A&M assistant coach Bob Starkey will have his own homecoming as he was a long-time assistant at LSU.
In between Big Monday tilts, the Aggies travel to Columbia, S.C., for a Sunday, Feb. 10 game against first-time opponent, South Carolina. The Gamecocks advanced to the NCAA Regional semifinal last spring.
Texas A&M hosts NCAA Tournament team Florida at Reed Arena on Thursday, Feb. 14. It will be just the second meeting with the Gators as A&M defeated UF in the first round of the NCAA Tournament held at G. Rollie White Coliseum in 1994.
As the third of three straight home games, Ole Miss comes to Aggieland on Thursday, Feb. 21, before A&M takes to the road for challenging matchups at Vanderbilt on Sunday, Feb. 24 and at Tennessee on Thursday, Feb. 28. The Commodores advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, while the Lady Vols fell in the Elite Eight.
The Aggies wrap up conference play at home versus LSU on Sunday, March 3.
The regular season concludes with the 2013 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. The tournament will include all 14 teams and begins on Wednesday, March 6, and concludes with the championship game on Sunday, March 10.
The full SEC women's basketball conference schedule can be viewed at SECdigitialnetwork.com.
All remaining game times and the remainder of the television schedule will be announced at a later date.
Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at: tickets.12thmanfoundation.com, over the phone by calling 1-888-99-AGGIE or in person at the 12th Man Foundation Ticket Center.