Game 16: Texas A&M Aggies
Wednesday, January 11, 2011 · 8:00 p.m. CT
Frank Erwin Center · Austin, TX
TV: ESPN2 (Joe Sciambi, Bob Knight) · Radio: 1300 AM / 98.1 FM
Ken Pom Projection: 65-53 Texas (63 Tempo)
Game Preview: TexasSports.com, Big12Hoops.com, Longhorn Road Trip
The Longhorns will seek to pick up their second conference win tonight in a crucial conference battle with visiting Texas A&M. The Aggies limp in to Austin losers of two straight and four of five overall, including a 74-50 pantsing in College Station at the hands of Iowa State on Saturday. For Texas, tonight's game represents one of the crucial must-win home games they need in order to have a realistic shot at 10 confence wins, the magic number to feel safe on Selection Sunday.
The good news is that the Aggies are an absolute mess right now, and have been one of the absolute worst offensive teams in all of college basketball. Texas A&M's players have not adjusted well to new head coach Billy Kennedy, who of course has been thrown off himself after sadly being diagnosed with early stage Parkinson's disease prior to this season. Despite returning a veteran team, the Aggies have been hamstrung by various injuries and have regressed badly in every offensive category, including an abominable 28% shooting from beyond the arc.
Junior Khris Middleton was supposed to build on his breakout sophomore season but he's been battling with injury, and hasn't been effective in the 7 games he's played, shooting just 7-30 from three while the rate at which he's drawing fouls and getting to the line has absolutely collapsed -- after shooting 148 free throws last season, Middleton has managed just 13 attempts from the line so far this year.
Without their only player who excelled at creating his own look, the Aggies have been a stagnant, inefficient offensive team. They have a good bit of size and plenty of athleticism, but few basketball players. Frontcourt starters David Loubeau and Ray Turner are brutes, but both lack polish. Dash Harris might be the worst point guard in college basketball, Jordan Green is a freshman still adjusting to the college game, and both Naji Hibbert and Kourtney Roberson are regressing after flashing promise last year.
If the Aggies shoot the ball and fail to attack the rim as terribly as they have so far this year, there won't be much to worry about tonight, but this Texas A&M team is capable of more than they've shown offensively and in some respects their make up presents some challenging match ups for this Texas team. With the exception of Harris, the Aggie guards are long, and we've struggled at times offensively when dealing with length on the perimeter. The Aggies' frontcourt players are also very strong-bodied players who rebound well and defend the paint. As bad as A&M has been offensively, the only reason they're above .500 is because they've been one of the stingiest defensive teams in the country. We won't get many uncontested looks tonight, and our freshmen have been most bothered by physical, athletic teams, which the Aggies most certainly are.
Still, I like us in this match up tonight, especially if we do a good job trying to push the ball, try to get pick up some buckets in transition, don't settle for too many three pointers, and attack the rim aggressively. The biggest home court advantage in sports comes from getting the whistles at home in college basketball, and where the Aggies have been dreadful at attacking and getting to the line, that's one of the things this young Longhorns team does best. If that trend continues tonight, Texas can slog out a win even if it doesn't do much else particularly well.
My gut says Texas plays better offensively than on Saturday, the Aggies' shooting woes continue, and Texas gets to 2-1 in the Big 12 with a 70-59 win.