COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Gary Blair of Texas A&M is one of three coaches in Division I women's basketball history to take two schools to the Final Four.
He will coach one of those teams against the other Monday when the third-seeded Aggies meet No. 6 seed Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Blair took the Razorbacks to the Final Four in 1998 and led the Aggies to the national title last season.
He isn't excited about facing his former team for the first time, though.
''I would have loved to have played Arkansas two to three years ago when they were rebuilding, because I thought by far we had the better talent,'' he said. ''The talent level has closed.''
He is happy for the success of Arkansas coach Tom Collen, a former assistant for Blair at Arkansas who has guided the Razorbacks to the tournament for the first time since 2003.
Blair coached Arkansas from 1993 until he was hired by A&M in 2003. Collen worked for him from 1993-97.
''Over the years people have said I sound a little bit like him,'' Collen said of Blair. ''I learned a lot of things from him. A lot about building programs and a lot about integrity and marketing and coaching a basketball team and getting ready to play.''
While Blair wouldn't acknowledge that a win against Arkansas would be any more meaningful than any victory in the tournament, his players know that Monday will be a bit more special for their coach.
''He's definitely brought it up and I think as players it's a pride thing that you don't want your coach to go out with a loss to a team he used to coach,'' Texas A&M senior Sydney Carter said. ''We've got a lot of pride and we want to get it done for him.''
Blair has been a bit annoyed by what he perceives as a lack of national respect for his team, considering the Aggies are the defending NCAA champions. It really irked him that President Barack Obama picked Arkansas to beat Texas A&M in the bracket he filled out for ESPN.
Blair did acknowledge that part of people underestimating his team is its own doing.
''It's time for us to live up to it,'' he said about being the defending champs. ''This will not be a good season if we don't advance and get to the next round.''
A win would put the Aggies, who beat Notre Dame for their first title last season, in the round of 16 for the fourth time in five years.
It is the first meeting between these teams since 1991 and it will be a glimpse of things to come next season, when Texas A&M leaves the Big 12 to join the Razorbacks in the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas has dominated the series, going 20-2 against the Aggies. Texas A&M's only wins came in 1988.
Collen hopes the Razorbacks are past the nerves that caused them to trail by as many as 14 points in the first half against Dayton on Saturday. Arkansas rallied to tie the game at halftime and took over in the second half for a 72-55 win in the Raleigh Regional.
''You win that game and put yourself in a situation where now you're probably not the favorite,'' Collen said. ''You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. You have no pressure on you.''
Blair is concerned about his team's rebounding after the Aggies were outrebounded 48-33 in a 69-47 win over Albany despite having a distinct height advantage. He was most unhappy with the 23 offensive rebounds the Great Danes grabbed and made his players watch film of each of those rebounds before Sunday's practice.
''If we do not do a better job of rebounding the ball, attacking the ball and blocking out ... it's going to be a long night because I promise you that Arkansas is a whole lot more physical than Albany,'' Blair said.
Both teams expect Monday's game to be a defensive battle, with each priding itself on defense. Before Blair complained about his team not getting enough respect, Collen pointed out that his team doesn't get recognized for being one of the top defensive units in the country.
The Razorbacks rank 11th nationally, allowing just 52.1 points per game. A&M is 114th at 59.5 points a game.
''He's gained a lot of national recognition for his defense,'' Collen said of Blair. ''(But) I think we have a pretty good defense. We clearly know that we have to rise to the occasion.''