The #10 ranked Longhorns (16-3, 3-1) travel tonight to Reed Arena in College Station to take on the #23 ranked Aggies (16-4, 2-3). The 8:00 p.m. game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Since stumbling in Columbia against Missouri, Texas has won three-straight conference games, most recently a 73-47 thrashing of Texas Tech in Austin. Meanwhile, Texas A&M got back in the win column this past Saturday with a road win over Oklahoma State; prior to the win in Stillwater, A&M had dropped three straight games - at Texas Tech, at Kansas State, and versus Baylor.
A&M entered conference play 14-1, but their non-conference schedule wasn't especially competitive. A&M picked up solid wins over Ohio State and Alabama, but most of the schedule was filler. The Aggies desperately need a quality win to get them back on track and in good standing for the rest of conference play.
|PB previews tonight's game for NBC Sports.|
Despite Texas' reputation as a run and gun team, the actual pace of Longhorn games has slowed considerably from the blistering pace we saw in wins against Tennessee and UCLA. On the flipside, Texas A&M has been playing at a slow pace all season, and in all likelihood, would like this one to be played that way, as well.
For Rick Barnes, if there was a game to try to get the pace back up again, this would be it. A&M isn't built to run, on offense or defense, and might struggle if this game becomes a track meet.
Texas A&M hasn't adjusted particularly well to first year coach Mark Turgeon's system. They're by no means a bad offensive team, but they aren't doing anything exceptionally well. They've been too often prone to turnovers, aren't drawing nearly enough fouls for as much size as they possess, and aren't using the three point shot to their advantage at all.
Part of the problem lies in the players adjusting to Turgeon's motion offense, which has taken some time. Equally problematic has been finding a reliable replacement for Acie Law, the engine of last year's outstanding offensive team.
Given Texas A&M's size advantage on the interior, look for Turgeon to see what kind of inside game he can create. In theory, this should be an advantage for A&M, but in reality, I think Texas is far better off against a team like A&M than it is against teams that can burn from the perimeter. The Longhorns are vulnerable to three point baskets - not hulking inside teams.
Watch Josh Carter closely: he's struggled mightily so far this year, but if he's hot from the outside, that's when you know we're in trouble.
Can Texas A&M match Texas on the perimeter? This looks like a huge advantage for Texas, and an especially good game both for Damion James and Connor Atchley to perform well. The Aggie big men haven't played good defense this year to begin with, and they're going to be especially challenged to deal with this group of Longhorns tonight.
Texas' advantage in quickness should allow for us to get a healthy number of open jump shots tonight; here's to hoping Texas remains patient, plays to its strengths, and doesn't rely on wild AJ Abrams jump shots for our looks.
One other thing to note here: teams have succeeded in frustrating Texas as they've been able to lock down DJ Augustin. It's hard to see A&M being successful with that in any capacity this evening, unless they uncharacteristically go to a zone defense.
If A&M sticks with its base man defense, Texas should exploit its quickness advantages on the perimeter. Connor and Damion should each enjoy open looks. DJ needs to be DJ, but he needs to be careful about driving into a hoard of trees near the rim. If the officials aren't calling fouls on A&M, it's going to be a tough drive to finish.
I like Texas to win tonight if Carter doesn't get hot; if he does... look out. We're in trouble. With A&M's bigs not terribly efficient at creating their looks, and Dominique Kirk and Donald Sloan unable to drive and dish, the Aggies can get bogged down in a hurry if they have no three point threat to keep teams honest.
If Damion or DJ gets sidelined for an extended period of time in this game, A&M can turn this into a game they can win. The crowd is going to be as big a factor here as anywhere we play all season - this probably isn't a game in which our freshmen will thrive.
This one could go either way, and A&M's home court advantage will be very real. If we avoid foul trouble, I say we win. Texas 72-69.