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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — John Calipari began shaking his head at the silliness of the question before it was even finished. Of course, he believes Texas A&M is deserving of an NCAA Tournament bid. Given the way the Aggies played in a 97-87 win over the Wildcats in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, it was hard to imagine any other scenario.

"I think they're fine," Calipari said.

If the A&M team Calipari had just seen had shown up more regularly throughout the course of the regular season, it wouldn't even be a question worth asking. The Aggies got 55 points from Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford and used a 26-9 edge in second-chance points to win their fifth straight game and reach 20 victories on the season.

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The win moved A&M from the "First Four Out" in Jerry Palm's Bracketology to the right side of the bubble ahead of a semifinal showdown with Florida on Saturday.

But for Aggies coach Buzz Williams and a core nucleus of players who were part of the program's run to the SEC Tournament final in 2022, there will be no sighs of relief over what college basketball's bracketology industrial complex believes.

The memories of what happened in a similar situation two years ago still haven't faded. Texas A&M sat at 23-12 after falling to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament championship game just hours before the Selection Show. Palm and many other experts projected the Aggies would make the field.

They were left out, prompting Williams to go on a legendary rant about the criteria used to relegate the Aggies to NIT status. Thus, it was understandable why he struck a skeptical tone again Friday about where A&M stands even after picking up its sixth Quad 1 win of the season.

"In truth, we have to do more. If you go 9-9 in the SEC, for Texas A&M that's not good enough," Williams said. "If you play 13 Quad 1 and Quad 2 games, that's not enough if you're at Texas A&M."

Texas A&M dropped eight straight games during January and February 2022 before bouncing back and winning eight straight prior to the SEC Tournament title game loss. This year, the Aggies lost five straight in February only to respond with five straight wins.

"The eight-game losing streak in that particular season, the five-game losing streak here, I've got to do a better job coaching," Williams said. "Good coaches don't lose that many games in a row. But I do think there's been some reason 22 months later in the approach of how we handled the five-game losing streak and what has transpired since then."

Will it be enough this time? While Williams is a skeptic, Calipari is a believer. The Wildcats had won six straight before losing at Texas A&M on Jan. 13. They had won five straight before falling to the Aggies again Friday.

"If they shoot the ball the way they shot it today, they're going to win games," Calipari said. "They're a good team."

The team A&M was against Kentucky is the team many expected it to be all season. Instead, the Aggies suffered five Quad 3 losses and needed a late surge to even secure the No. 7 seed in the SEC Tournament bracket.

With two more wins, Texas A&M can remove all doubt and head to the Big Dance as an automatic qualifier. But unless it's the Aggies on the ladder cutting down the nets inside Bridgestone Arena, don't expect Williams or anyone else from A&M that was around in 2022 to be breathing easy on Selection Sunday.

"There's always going to be something that you have to do more," Williams said. "We're bankrupt from all of the things that we can't control, and we try to give all of our emotion and energy to the things that we can."