Know Your Soon-To-Be "Historical" Rival: Texas A&M Aggies

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 18: Khris Middleton #22 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates with teammate Kevin Durant Naji Hibbert #23 after making a three-pointer at the buzzer in the first half of the game against the Florida State Seminoles during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on March 18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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In football, you occasionally have "helmet games." Team A has dominated Team B for quite a while, and even if Team A is down and Team B is hot, when the two meet, Team B sees Team A's helmet and reverts to old form. We'll good test of the basketball version of this -- the uniform game? -- today at 4:30. Mizzou is 16-1, and when the AP poll comes out later today, they could rank as high as about sixth in the country ranked fifth in the country. Texas A&M, meanwhile, is dreadful offensively, and over two months into the season, they have no wins against Ken Pomeroy's Top 150 (they are 0-6, including a seven-point home loss to No. 129 Rice).

But they are Texas A&M. They have not lost to Missouri since the 2004 Big 12 Tournament (the year they went 0-17 in Big 12 play). Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon never lost to the Tigers, and Mike Anderson never beat the Aggies. The general way of the world includes an annual Missouri loss to Texas A&M, and fans will see any number of familiar, unwelcome faces today: Khris Middleton, Ray Turner, David Loubeau, Dash Harris. Does the laundry win out over the fact that Missouri has been a much, much better team than the Aggies this year?

Texas A&M Aggies (10-6)


A&M
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
64.3
Points Per Minute
1.56
1.44
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.97
0.89
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.14
1.10
2-PT FG% 49.1%
41.4%
3-PT FG% 30.0%
28.0%
FT% 62.2%
66.5%
True Shooting % 50.6%
46.7%




A&M Opp.
Assists/Gm 12.9
10.1
Steals/Gm 5.5
7.1
Turnovers/Gm 14.3
12.9
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.29
1.33




A&M Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 11.9
12.9
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 11.5
9.6
Difference -0.4
-3.3

In some ways, this is indeed the Texas A&M team we've come to expect. Opponents shoot horribly against them, and the Aggies grab most defensive rebounds; for the most part, the defense we've sadly come to know in recent years hasn't really gone anywhere. What did leave town with Mark Turgeon, however, was the offense. It is brutal. Unless the Aggies suddenly gain confidence when they see the white MIZZOU jerseys, they will shoot themselves out of most games if given the opportunity.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

A&M Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

A&M Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 264
59
MU Big
Effective FG% 218
111
MU Big
Turnover % 225
64
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 121
114
Push
FTA/FGA 317
15
MU Big
MU Offense vs A&M Defense Ranks

MU Offense A&M Defense Advantage
Efficiency 2
31
MU
Effective FG% 2
5
Push
Turnover % 2
213
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 170
23
A&M Big
FTA/FGA 127
234
MU Big

Where the Aggies are weakest

Just about anything related to offensive play. They hit the offensive glass reasonably well, but not well enough to offset the fact that they rank 127th in 2PT% and 322nd in 3PT% (despite one of the weakest schedules in the country). Their guards don't draw fouls (which is one cause for them ranking 301st in FT%), and the players who do get to the line, can't actually make their freebies with any regularity. They are stagnant, they rely on one-on-one play and putbacks for their points, and they aren't exactly amazing when it comes to one-on-one play or putbacks. Meanwhile, while their FG% defense is fantastic, they force almost no turnovers (213th in Def. TO%, 243rd in Def. Steal%), meaning they give themselves almost no easy-score opportunities.

Where they are best

You do not shoot well against them. They rank 10th in Def. 3PT% and 19th in Def. 2PT%. That is how they managed to stay within nine points of Baylor (61-52) in Waco and within ten points of Texas (61-51) in Austin. Mizzou might be able to generate some easy transition buckets, but the more they have to rely on halfcourt offense to win, the longer A&M will stick around. They do foul a bit too much (while not actually drawing any fouls themselves), but Mizzou isn't amazing at getting to the line, especially if they begin to get stagnant in their halfcourt offense.

Also: A&M is 48th in Bench Minutes and 29th in Effective Height. They have a deep stable of long bodies. Those long bodies don't necessarily do a lot other than getting hands in shooters' faces, but it's something.

Opp's Season to Date

  • Wins Versus Top 200 Teams (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at No. 160 St. John's, 58-57
    No. 200 Stephen F. Austin, 55-42
  • Losses
    at No. 8 Baylor, 52-61
    vs No. 12 Florida, 64-84
    at No. 25 Texas, 51-61
    No. 44 Iowa State, 50-74
    vs No. 56 Mississippi State, 60-69
    No. 129 Rice, 58-65

Brutal. Just brutal. A&M's best wins are their aforementioned reasonably close losses to Texas and Baylor. They were drubbed by Florida and obliterated at home by Iowa State, and yes, their second-best real win was against Stephen F. Austin.

Opp Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Khris Middleton (6'7, 217, Jr.)
12.6
0.47
27.0 MPG, 13.2 PPG (49% 2PT, 24% 3PT, 70% FT), 5.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.2 TOPG
Elston Turner (6'5, 211, Jr.)
12.3
0.40
31.0 MPG, 13.2 PPG (46% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 81% FT), 3.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 TOPG
Ray Turner (6'9, 232, Jr.)
11.6
0.51
22.5 MPG, 10.6 PPG (59% 2PT, 63% FT), 6.3 RPG, 1.8 TOPG
David Loubeau (6'8, 234, Sr.)
8.2
0.33
25.1 MPG, 10.2 PPG (48% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 73% FT), 4.4 RPG, 1.8 TOPG
Dash Harris (6'1, 171, Sr.)
7.1
0.25
28.5 MPG, 5.7 PPG (37% 2PT, 29% 3PT, 46% FT), 4.2 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Kourtney Roberson (6'9, 237, So.)
5.6
0.44
12.7 MPG, 4.6 PPG (60% 2PT, 50% FT), 4.9 RPG, 1.3 TOPG
Jordan Green (6'4, 181, Fr.)
3.6
0.20
17.9 MPG, 3.9 PPG (55% 2PT, 21% 3PT, 63% FT), 2.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 TOPG
Naji Hibbert (6'5, 192, Jr.)
2.9
0.18
15.5 MPG, 3.0 PPG (43% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 75% FT), 2.3 RPG
Keith Davis (6'10, 231, So.)
1.8
0.11
16.8 MPG, 1.3 PPG (40% 2PT, 36% FT), 4.2 RPG, 1.0 TOPG
Daniel Alexander (6'9, 212, RSFr.)
1.6
0.22
7.6 MPG, 1.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG
Zach Kinsley (6'5, 208, Sr.)
0.1
0.02
6.1 MPG, 1.6 PPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Middleton (31%), R. Turner (24%), Loubeau (24%), E. Turner (23%)
  • Highest Floor%: R. Turner (43%), E. Turner (38%), Loubeau (38%), Middleton (37%)
  • Highest %Pass: Harris (72%), Green (60%), Hibbert (51%), Middleton (48%)
  • Highest %Shoot: R. Turner (53%), Loubeau (50%), E. Turner (43%), Hibbert (39%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Roberson (35%), R. Turner (22%), Loubeau (21%), Davis (18%)
  • Highest %T/O: Davis (24%), Roberson (18%), R. Turner (12%), Loubeau (11%)
  • Middleton missed seven games with an injury this year, but somehow the offense either got worse, or at least didn't get better, upon his return. The Aggies beat St. John's without him but have gone just 3-5 since his return. This often happens when a high-volume scorer comes back from injury; maybe he gets his points but eats up a lot of possessions in the process. But the thing is, Middleton really doesn't waste that many possessions. Despite a ridiculously high Usage Rate, he still has the fourth-best Floor% (percentage of possessions that result in points) on the team.
  • Despite Middleton's relative efficiency, his return does seem to have stunted Ray Turner's growth a bit. Turner scored at least 12 points in seven of A&M's first eight games but has done so just twice in the last eight games (in an 18-point win over non-D1 Arkansas Tech and in a 24-point loss to Iowa State). He is shooting 8-for-22 from the field in four conference games. He has been A&M's most efficient overall player, and lord knows Mizzou knows his upside pretty well, but despite a double-double against Iowa State, he has offered little recently.
  • Only one Aggie is shooting over 29 percent on 3-pointers. One! That said ... you might want to guard Elston Turner. He's only made four of 16 bombs in the last three games, but he has made at least three 3-pointers in five games this year and made five against Baylor. He is streaky.
  • David Loubeau scored 32 points (9-for-15 FG, 14-for-16 FT) and grabbed 11 boards in two games versus Missouri last year. He is one of many A&M players I fear will experience a rebirth against the Tigers after blending into the scenery thus far this season.
  • Dash Harris is another, even though he really hasn't done a lot offensively against Missouri in the past.
  • A&M play a lot of guys, but few bench players actually make any contributions. Let's keep it that way.

Keys to the Game

  1. Rebound. Of Course. Mizzou has been rather hit-or-miss on the glass this year, dominating Oklahoma, getting dominated versus Kansas State, dominating Iowa State, and getting dominated versus Texas. A&M's offense isn't very good, and if you limit them to one-and-done, then their poor shooting will eventually do them in.

  2. Star Versus Star. Khris Middleton is still a very scary player, even if he's been only decent this season. He could go off in a Missouri victory, not unlike what J'Covan Brown pulled off on Saturday, but if Mizzou's own scoring star, Marcus Denmon (or perhaps Kim English) can match Middleton's production, it is difficult to see how A&M scores enough to win.

  3. No Knockdowns. Call this post-traumatic stress. Last time A&M played in Columbia, Mizzou led 55-46 with ten minutes left ... and then trailed 63-56 with three minutes left. It was truly the worst 13 minutes ever.

    From the 14:36 mark of the second half to the 1:26 mark, a span of 13:10, ATM outscored Mizzou 28-8. Mizzou was 3-for-15 from the field (1-for-7 on 2-pointers, 2-for-8 on 3-pointers, 3-for-6 from the line), while ATM shot 10-for-17 (7-for-14 on 2-pointers, 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, 5-for-10 from the line). ATM grabbed seven offensive rebounds, while Mizzou grabbed six TOTAL rebounds. Laurence Bowers had three of those rebounds, meaning that for 13 minutes in the second half, Mizzou players not named Laurence Bowers grabbed 3 rebounds. Total rebounding margin: 21-6. ATM played great defense, made clutch shots, and hustled the balls off of Mizzou. Again, Mizzou deserves blame for this, but do not forget to give ATM an insane amount of credit. Their point guard is out, their other point guard (Dash Harris) got dinged up, their backcourt was seemingly overmatched, and they played an almost flawless nine minutes, starting at the 10:00 mark.

    All 2011-12 stats suggest that Missouri is, far and away, the superior team in today's game. And they are at home, too boot. But last time A&M was in town, Mizzou was superior as well (at least with A&M's injuries), and it didn't matter. It didn't even matter that they owned the first 25 minutes of the game. They lost anyway. If they avoid a disastrous round or two, they should win, but if A&M starts to get momentum, all of Mizzou Arena will clam up in a hurry.

Prediction

Because of A&M's struggles this year, Ken Pomeroy has this one as an easy Mizzou win: 75-57. And if I weren't so scarred from previous A&M games, I would agree. I'll still predict a Mizzou win, but I think they hit a drought or two and allow A&M to keep it close for a while. We'll say Mizzou 64, A&M 54.

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