The wins keep coming but the chip on Danuel House’s shoulder never moves.
It was again on public display Saturday as the Texas A&M guard discussed what remains undone for an Aggies’ team with a No. 3 seed and a chance to set a school record for wins in a season in Sunday’s game against Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament.
A&M (27-8) can hit the 28-win mark for the first time by taking down the Panthers (23-12) in Chesapeake Energy Arena. A victory, if it unfolds, would send the Aggies to the Sweet 16, matching their deepest NCAA Tournament run.
At this point, you’d think the reigning SEC co-champs would be closing in on some national respect. But that’s a commodity House considers non-existent. It’s a viewpoint he’s not willing to change, lest the bottom-line results start changing, too.
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“I feel like people still don’t respect us at all,” House said Saturday, echoing a theme he also raised during news conferences Thursday and Friday. “Me and my teammates feel the same way. That fuels our fire.”
Actually, not all of his teammates agree with that premise. But no one objects to the point that they’re willing to publicly disagree with their leading scorer during one of his best offensive rolls of the season.
I feel like people still don’t respect us at all. Me and my teammates feel the same way. That fuels our fire.
A&M guard Danuel House
House, a senior who averages a team-high 15.6 points per game, has connected for 52 in the Aggies’ last two games (26.0 avg.) and has topped the scoring charts in four of the team’s past six contests. If House is intent on playing angry during his lone career appearance in the NCAA Tournament, coach Billy Kennedy is not going to discourage that.
“Whatever motivates Danuel,” Kennedy said. “If that motivates him, I’m all for it.”
For the record, the Aggies received enough respect from the NCAA selection committee that they entered the tournament with the highest seed of any SEC team. They were placed one spot ahead of fourth-seed Kentucky, the team that shared the league’s regular-season title with A&M before defeating the Aggies to win the SEC tournament title.
Heading into tonight’s game against a No. 11 seed, A&M remains in the hunt for a national title and blue-blood Kentucky is done after Saturday’s 73-67 loss to Indiana. That should offer some perspective about how well things are going for these Aggies, who are 9-1 in their past 10 games.
Just don’t try selling that to House, who has the emotional pedal pressed firmly to the metal and sees only the slights from those who question if A&M truly can make it to the Final Four in Houston, the goal Kennedy placed before his players at the start of this season.
Would a journey that deep into the tournament offer House the respect he seeks?
“That’s some thing that you can’t predict,” House said. “You’ve just got to keep playing until everything happens. So I can’t predict that.”
Truth be known, guard Alex Caruso admitted it’s “going to take more than just this season” before A&M becomes an acknowledged power in the minds of college basketball fans because this is the Aggies’ first appearance in March Madness since 2011. But as a fellow senior, he’s fully bought-in to the House mantra because an us-against-the-world mindset keeps this team sharp mentally.
Personally, the respect thing doesn’t really matter to me. If you play and everyone does their job, you win games. And if we win games, it all takes care of itself.
A&M center Tyler Davis
“For this team right now, it’s just about winning games,” Caruso said. “Keep winning, keep winning, keep winning. And, eventually, there will be so few teams left that people won’t have any choice but to respect us.”
Freshman center Tyler Davis, for one, could care less about the R-word. Nor does he spend much time perusing the feedback of analysts.
“I’m worried about my guys in the locker room and our coaches,” said Davis, who averages 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. “Personally, the respect thing doesn’t really matter to me. If you play and everyone does their job, you win games. And if we win games, it all takes care of itself. So I’m not really worried about the outsiders.”
Different approach, same goal. And a goal that remains well within the reach of a squad that scored the most points of any A&M team in any NCAA game during Friday’s 92-65 rout of Green Bay. Point guard Anthony Collins considers that offensive outburst an important message delivered to future opponents by a team that is still flying under the radar as a national title contender.
“That says a lot about what this team already has accomplished for the school,” Collins said. “But we want more. It’s only the second round. Because you haven’t seen A&M in the tournament in a while, we feel like not many people have seen us play. So we’re still hungry, even though we have a No. 3 seed. We want to go out there and try and go as far as we can.”
If they go far enough, perhaps they’ll even bump into some national respect. Even if Danuel House chooses not to notice when it surfaces.