Saturday, Feb 27, 2010, 1:00 PM CST
Reed Arena (12,292) * College Station, TX
Television: ESPN (Franklin & Fraschilla)
Ken Pom Ratings: Texas #11 / Texas A&M #31
Ken Pom Predictor: Texas 71-70 (71 possessions)
A lot has happened since our January 16th overtime victory over the Aggies in Austin. Texas stumbled as the top ranked team in the country in Manhattan and then again Storrs, Connecticut. Those two losses were compounded by four more in the seven games to follow, and the Longhorns fell from the inside track to a protected seed in the Houston Regional to a team clawing for a top four seed in its own league.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M found themselves after their close loss to the 'Horns. Mark Turgeon's club began to overachieve, and won six of their next seven and reached an impressive 7-3 mark in conference. The Aggies have dropped two of their last three, but make no mistake, winning in College Station is not going to be easy.
For Texas, a win puts the 'Horns back in the race for a top four seed and adds even more confidence from the recent two game winning streak.
For A&M, a win puts an 11-5 conference mark within reach and goes a long way toward finishing at least tied with Missouri and securing a first round by in the conference tournament.
No time for another full preview, so let's go with a couple of reasons why each team wins.
Why Texas Wins
1. Damion James--DaMo went for 26 points and 12 boards in Austin. The Aggies didn't have an answer for Damion then and still don't today.
2. Defense--Texas has a top ten defense (Kem Pom, #9), including a defensive effective field goal percent of just 43%, good for twelfth best in the country. Second, the Longhorns are coming off a defensive masterpiece against Oklahoma State and should have some confidence as they travel to College Station. Last, the Aggies are already a shooting challenged team. If Texas can force jump shots and keep A&M off the line, the typical brick fest from A&M will give the 'Horns a great shot.
3. Dexter Pittman vs. Bryan Davis Part II--Davis bitched Dexter in Austin. Surely that can't happen again, right? Pittman scored only four points (all from the free throw line) and grabbed just two boards in 27 minutes in January. On the other side, Davis scored 17, snagged five boards, and blocked four shots. Pittman has always been a quiet giant in his four years as a Longhorn, but if there ever was a game to play mad, this is it. If Pittman wins this match-up, Texas wins.
4. Some Road Confidence--It is easy to point to the disappointments that ensued at K State, at UConn, and at OU and say that Texas is not a good road team. While that may be true on the whole, it is also important to emphasize that the Longhorns have had their moments away from Austin. Texas has true road wins at Rice, at Arkansas, at Iowa State, at Oklahoma State, and at Texas Tech. While none of those places even compare to the craziness that will occur this afternoon, at least Rick Barnes has something to point toward and the players have something positive to remember. It could happen...
Why A&M Wins 1. Bryan Davis vs. Dexter Pittman Part I--As mentioned above, Davis cost Pittman a whole bunch of NBA money in Austin. And Pittman has continued to give back even more over the last six weeks. The best predictor of future success is past success, right? Davis is a savvy and strong veteran and will likely be playing against the Longhorns for the final time. Sadly, the chance of Davis of performing at a higher level than Dexter is pretty good.
2. Free Throw Line--There are a couple of aspects to this advantage. One, while the Aggies aren't much better from the stripe than are the 'Horns, but they get their a lot. A whole lot. Texas A&M scores over a quarter of their overall points from the free throw line, (21st best in the country) and only six teams in the country get to the line more frequently as a percentage of shots taken. Second, the game will be played in College Station. Expect a ton of home court whistles. Last, Texas has yet to show the ability to put away a game at the line. Even if Texas does manage a late lead, stats and history tell us the Aggies will still have a great shot.
3. College Station--Home whistles, legitimately loud and disruptive fans, plus confidence have helped the Aggies produce a solid 13-1 home court record this season. Their lone loss came to No. 1 Kansas in a game that A&M led with less than five minutes remaining. Also, Texas hasn't won in College Station since 2004. That year the Aggies went 0-16 in conference play. Since then even average Aggie teams have found ways to split the season series by protecting their home court.
4. No Dogus Balbay--As suspect as Dogus was on the offensive end, no one can argue that he wasn't a shut down defender. If Avery Bradley or Justin Mason get in foul trouble, look out. Jai Lucas is as bad on defense as Dogus was on offense, and J'Covan Brown has trouble defending the dribble drive as well. If Donald Sloan can consistentely get into the lane, Texas is screwed. Think foul trouble, playing time for Wangmene, Hill, Chapman, and Lucas, Aggie points from the line, and collapsing defenses leading to open looks from BJ Holmes and Dash Harris.