The Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies almost certainly won’t get paired for a bowl game on Sunday, but the two basketball programs will meet on the court at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth for a non-conference game.
Texas has won five out of the last six meetings between the two teams, although Texas A&M came out victorious in 2015 during the Battle for Atlantis, the last time the Aggies played the Longhorns.
During the offseason, Texas A&M hired Buzz Williams from Virginia Tech to turn the program around after going 14-18 and finishing 11th in the SEC last season under Billy Kennedy. The rebuilding effort for Williams may take some time if the early results are any indication — the Aggies are 3-4, have lost three straight games, and the best win so far came against the nation’s No. 274 team, according to KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric. The last loss was against Fairfield.
The Aggies are a top-100 team defensively, keeping opponents from getting to the free-throw line and defending the three-point line effectively so far while blocking shots and forcing steals at a strong rate. It’s the best defense Texas has faced since the season’s second game against Purdue — the difference is that the Aggies have a good defense and the Boilermakers have one of the best defenses in the country.
The biggest weakness for the Aggies defensively is ending possessions with rebounds — opponents are rebounding 32.7 percent of their own misses.
Offensively, it’s been a struggle for A&M, especially shooting the basketball, as the Aggies rank No. 347 nationally in three-point shooting percentage. Only guard Savion Flagg, the team’s leading scorer at 10.7 points per game, is shooting better than 30 percent from deep. Fellow guard Wendell Mitchell, for instance, the team’s third-leading scorer, has taken 44 attempts and only made 10 (22.7 percent).
Guard Jay Jay Chandler has gotten to the free-throw line at a high rate and converted there but otherwise hasn’t scored efficiently, helping the Aggies rank No. 59 in free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts. Forward Josh Nebo gets to the line frequently, too.
Because Texas A&M struggles to shoot from distance, if Texas can shoot well from the three-point line, the Longhorns should be able to generate a significant margin in that category. Throw in some extra possessions generated by offensive rebounds and head coach Shaka Smart’s team starts putting together a recipe for a win.
The game tips off at 2 p.m. Central on ABC, with Texas given a 77-percent win probability by a projected 67-59 margin, according to KenPom.com.