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Blair, No. 8 Texas A&M no longer an afterthought

Gary Blair joined the fraternity last April, punctuating a Final Four that began with Texas A&M as the field's greatest afterthought and ended with the Aggies hoisting the hardware.

Blair and the No. 8 Aggies are at the XL Center tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2) as part of the women's version of the Jimmy V Classic. It's not often the second-ranked and seven-time champion Huskies aren't the headliner. But the defending champs will be wearing maroon.

"I hope we handle it as well as Geno has handled it and Pat (Summitt) has handled it over the years," Blair said during a conference call last week. "I realize the importance of being a champion and knowing how to act like a champion the following year.

"I have been around long enough, I have studied coaches, I have studied programs and really have admired how Geno has been able to handle all the fanfare that goes with what happens in Connecticut and being right there under ESPN and everything."

Blair wasn't just right last April about fans and media remaining unaware of Texas A&M's talent. He said that Danielle Adams would be a solid, if not impact, player in the WNBA. Adams, who wasn't drafted until the second round, was a Rookie of the Year candidate with the Silver Stars.

With Adams and Sydney Colson gone, the Aggies have turned to seniors Sydney Carter and Adaora Elonu as well as Kelsey Bone and Tyra White, who played the tournament of her life in the Final Four.

"I think to be recognized in this game, you need to do this more than once. That is what our goal is, not to win a national championship right now, that is not our goal," Blair said. "Our goal is to go out there, win and compete in every ball game and get better and to hold onto that national championship but not live off it. We want to be able to sell it, we want to able to be able to recruit with it. We want to get better and it is making us better coaches."

The No. 2 Huskies have won an NCAA record 90 straight games at home.

"I'm sure there's been a lot of victims that have come into Storrs or Hartford, like 90 in a row,'' Blair said. "And I want to be able to come in there and give them our best shot. So let's just have another good ballgame.

"This is what's good for women's basketball right now is the good teams are playing each other, and we're getting the television dates. The big dogs are willing to play.''

m.dimauro@theday.com

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