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Preview/Open Thread: Texas A&M Aggies at No. 1 Texas Longhorns

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Game #17: Texas A&M Aggies (12-4, 1-1) at No. 1 Texas Longhorns (16-0, 2-0)

5:00 pm * Frank Erwin Center (16,734) * Austin, TX

TV: ESPNU * Radio: KVET (98.1 FM)

Ken Pomeroy Ratings: Texas #3; Texas A&M #43

Pomeroy Prediction: Texas 83-69

The Texas Longhorns host the Texas A&M Aggies in the first of two games this season. Before the season, the Aggies were picked to finish in the middle of the conference and were a borderline NCAA tournament team. After the season ending leg injury to senior guard, Derrick Roland, a few weeks ago against Washington, A&M will now have a hard time earning that post-season bid.

Under Rick Barnes, Texas is 17-6 against Texas A&M, including a 10-1 mark in Austin. The Longhorns and Aggies have split the season series, with each team winning on their home court, in each of the last five seasons. In the 2003-04 season, Texas won both meetings as A&M went 0-16 in conference.

A&M on the Season

The Aggies sit at 12-4 overall and 1-1 in Big XII play. All four of their losses have come top 100 teams--West Virginia, New Mexico, Washington, and Kansas State. Their two best wins came on a neutral court over Clemson and Minnesota. A&M is just 1-2 in true road games.

A&M by Ken Pomeroy

Statistically, the Aggies are a decent basketball team. They rank 55th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 41st in adjusted defensive efficiency. On offense, the Aggies excel at getting to the free throw line and limiting turnovers. However, A&M is not a great shooting team from two, from three, or from the line and because they start and play a smaller lineup have trouble on the offensive glass.

On defense, the Aggies do nothing exceptionally but nothing poorly either. They are at their best, as most teams are, when they can create some turnovers and limit second chance points by controlling the defensive glass.

More after the jump...

Keys to the Game

1) Play D Without Fouling: Texas A&M is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the free throw line. Free throws account for over 27% of their total points. This number would be even higher if A&M could improve their 65% free throw percentage. With the game in Austin, the crowd and the home whistles should help Texas accomplish this goal.

2) Feed the Post: It will be interesting to see how long A&M attempts to play small with Brian Davis as their only post. I doubt long. Even when Texas A&M puts another big on the court (David Loubeau 6-9, Nathan Walkup 6-7, or Khris Middleton 6-7), Dexter Pittman and Damion James will have huge advantages. If the Texas guards look to Pittman, this is a game in which Dexter could easily dominate. I also expect A&M to play some sagging man-to-man or 2-3 zone. The Longhorns have seen this before and should know how to counter it: attack off the dribble, get to the rim, and finish or kick to an open shooter.

3) Cut off Dribble Penetration: Texas was fantastic at this earlier in the season but has struggled some recently against more talented competition. Courtney Fortson, Cory Higgins, and Alec Burks have given the ‘Horns fits in recent games with dribble penetration. While not supremely talented by any means, A&M's BJ Holmes, Donald Sloan, and Dash Harris all have the quickness to turn the corner and collapse the Texas defense. I have faith in Dogus Balbay and Avery Bradley, but Texas will need stronger performances from J'Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton on the perimeter for this to turn into a blowout.

4) Speed up the Pace: On the season, Texas plays at the fifth fastest pace in the country. A&M slogs along at the 162nd fastest. Look for Texas to try push the ball in transition off Aggie misses and mix in some full-court traps. If Texas can get the Aggies to run, like most of our opponents, they won't have the gas in the second half.

Other Previews:
Austin American Statesman on Texas depth

Hook ‘em.