Know Your Reed Arena Rematch: Texas A&M Aggies

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Tomorrow's Missouri-A&M sends off a lot of "BE WARY" alerts. The Tigers are taking on a team that has been close to an upset recently -- they lost by three to Baylor recently, by two to Texas -- and look like they might be full-strength for the first time in a while. Plus, the game is taking place in an arena that has not been kind to Mizzou in recent years; Mizzou has not won in Reed Arena since Clarence Gilbert scored 26 points there in 2001. (In other words, Mizzou has not won at A&M since Dr. T.J. "Diagnosis: Victory" Soyoye was in a Mizzou uniform.) Looking at things in terms of pure projections and this year's accomplishments, this should be a relatively easy Missouri win. But once you begin to take context into account, you realize this could be an absolute dogfight.

Texas A&M Aggies (13-12) Since Last Time


A&M
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
60.4
Points Per Minute
1.47
1.57
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.99
1.06
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.20
1.22
2-PT FG% 45.0%
50.3%
3-PT FG% 39.4%
29.9%
FT% 67.1%
79.6%
True Shooting % 52.7%
53.5%




A&M Opp.
Assists/Gm 10.6
13.1
Steals/Gm 5.8
5.9
Turnovers/Gm 13.6
11.3
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.20
1.68




A&M Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 10.9
11.0
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 8.9
10.1
Difference -2.0
-0.9

For the most part, Texas A&M has played defense like recent Aggie teams; but with injuries limiting both Khris Middleton and Dash Harris, the offense has been, as the kids like to say, a dumpster fire. They have been solid recently from long range, but they have had little inside presence, they don't draw fouls (and if they did, it wouldn't matter; they don't make their free throws), and they don't hit the glass very well. The combination of solid 3-point shooting, good defense, a feisty home crowd, and reasonably healthy versions of Middleton and Harris certainly make the upset alarms ring a bit.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

A&M Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

A&M Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 210
60
MU Big
Effective FG% 205
181
MU
Turnover % 246
52
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 182
157
MU
FTA/FGA 309
13
MU Big
MU Offense vs A&M Defense Ranks

MU Offense A&M Defense Advantage
Efficiency 1
33
MU
Effective FG% 3
22
Push
Turnover % 3
223
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 217
59
A&M Big
FTA/FGA 121
186
MU

Where the Aggies are weakest

Again, it's all on the offense. They rank 238th in 3PT%, 294th in FT%, 246th in turnovers, and 309th in fouls drawn. Brutal. Middleton and Harris can help with some of that, but they aren't particularly strong 3-point shooters themselves.

On defense, like a lot of teams in the Big 12, they are reasonably adept at leveraging you into taking poor shots. They struggle, however, with the fact that they don't force turnovers, foul a bit too much (plus, they foul guards -- they rank 268th in Def. FT%), and don't block shots. They can still hold you scoreless on quite a few possessions because they will force some one-and-dones, but a) you're likely to get a shot on every possession, and b) they don't do anything that could result in transition and easy buckets on the other end. With an offense this iffy, the defense has needed to do more to help the offense but hasn't.

Where they are best

They do rank 30th in Def. 3PT% -- opponents have made only 28.3% of 3-pointers on the year, 29.9% in the last nine games. Mizzou made just five of 17 3-balls against the Aggies in Mizzou Arena, but granted, that was back in mid-January when Mizzou wasn't really hitting 3-pointers against anybody (that kick-started a five-game stretch that saw them hit just 29 percent). The Tigers have made 38 of 89 longballs (43%) in their last four games, so perhaps they can maintain that rhythm to a degree. (Or perhaps not -- they've made just 30.7% of their 3-pointers on the road, 42.3% at home or on a neutral court.)

Beyond that, A&M does appear built to give Mizzou trouble in certain ways -- they rank 20th in Effective Height, 35th in Bench Minutes. Granted, a lot of that bench play has been because of injuries, but it doesn't always matter how you generate depth, just that you do.

A&M's Season Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 99 Oklahoma State, 76-61
    No. 110 Oklahoma, 81-75 (OT)
    at No. 238 Texas Tech, 47-38
  • Losses
    at No. 4 Kansas, 54-64
    at No. 8 Missouri, 51-70
    No. 15 Baylor, 60-63
    No. 19 Texas, 68-70
    at No. 27 Kansas State, 53-64
    at No. 35 Iowa State, 46-69

Again, they're coming close. Aside from the blowout loss at Iowa State, they've lost mostly tight games to good teams (nothing wrong with losing by 10 in Lawrence) and won the three games they should. They come in with some semblance of confidence.

(And yes, I'm going out of my way to avoid mentioning this week's eyesore A&M-Tech game.)

A&M Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Elston Turner (6'5, 211, Jr.)
15.1
0.41
36.4 MPG, 17.0 PPG (39% 2PT, 41% 3PT, 81% FT), 3.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 3.6 TOPG
David Loubeau (6'8, 234, Sr.)
11.4
0.37
30.8 MPG, 12.3 PPG (46% 2PT, 78% FT), 4.9 RPG, 3.2 PFPG, 2.0 TOPG
Dash Harris (6'1, 171, Sr.)
10.1
0.27
37.0 MPG, 6.7 PPG (41% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 60% FT), 4.7 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.0 TOPG (3 games)
Ray Turner (6'9, 232, Jr.)
7.2
0.34 21.3 MPG, 6.8 PPG (57% 2PT, 50% FT), 4.1 RPG, 3.1 PFPG, 1.0 TOPG
Naji Hibbert (6'5, 192, Jr.)
5.7
0.22 26.0 MPG, 6.0 PPG (36% 2PT, 45% 3PT, 50% FT), 2.1 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.4 TOPG
Daniel Alexander (6'9, 212, RSFr.)
5.3
0.28 19.0 MPG, 4.9 PPG (50% 2PT, 46% 3PT), 2.4 RPG, 1.0 TOPG
Khris Middleton (6'7, 217, Jr.)
3.7
0.17 22.0 MPG, 7.8 PPG (40% 2PT, 27% 3PT, 33% FT), 4.5 RPG, 2.3 TOPG (4 games)
Jordan Green (6'4, 181, Fr.)
2.7
0.17 15.7 MPG, 2.9 PPG (53% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 50% FT), 1.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.3 TOPG
Keith Davis (6'10, 231, So.)
2.5
0.13 19.2 MPG, 1.6 PPG (67% 2PT, 67% FT), 3.3 RPG
Zach Kinsley (6'5, 208, Sr.)
2.0
0.18 11.0 MPG, 3.3 PPG (17% 2PT, 39% 3PT), 1.2 RPG

* 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%), E. Turner (30%), Loubeau (26%), Kinsley (22%)
  • Highest Floor%: R. Turner (43%), Harris (39%), Loubeau (38%), Alexander (37%)
  • Highest %Pass: Harris (72%), Hibbert (59%), Alexander (46%), Davis (45%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Middleton (57%), Kinsley (57%), Loubeau (49%), R. Turner (47%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Loubeau (22%), R. Turner (20%), E. Turner (13%), Kinsley (13%)
  • Highest %T/O: Davis (23%), Middleton (14%), Green (13%), Kinsley (12%)
  • In Middleton's absence, Elston Turner has developed into a rock solid No. 1 weapon. Now the trick is to figure out how to get the two weapons to coexist. They combined for 25 of A&M's 47 points against Tech mid-week, but it took them 25 shots (10-for-25 FG, 3-for-8 3PT, 2-for-4 FT) to do the deed. Middleton has failed to generate any sort of rhythm in 2011-12, though we know from previous seasons' work that the switch could get flipped at any moment.
  • Dash Harris has missed the last six games with injury, but Frank Haith said he expected Harris to play tomorrow. We'll see.
  • In general, this is a team with some accidental depth -- guys like Jordan Green and Zach Kinsley have received more playing time than probably intended -- and empty spaces (only one player averages over 0.40 AdjGS/minute, only two others average over 0.30), but when you look at the roster, you see the names of players who have victimized Mizzou previously. Loubeau. Ray Turner. Hibbert. Middleton. Harris (who has always defended Mizzou's points well). Things have not gone well for them this season, but I'm still wary.

Keys to the Game

  1. Road Things. Always. Offensive rebounds, fouls and Phil Pressey. All three of these things went Mizzou's way in their 70-51 win over A&M in Columbia -- Mizzou grabbed more offensive rebounds, fould eight fewer times and got 10 points, four assists and three steals out of Flip. But those things usually go well for Mizzou in Columbia. The road is sometimes a different story.

  2. The Long Ball. A&M takes about 15 3-pointers per game, which is quite a few considering their slow pace. They have also been making about 39 percent of them recently. Both teams are relatively hot from long-range, so who stays hot tomorrow?

  3. Denmon & Dixon vs. Turner & Middleton. A&M has two high-volume scorers for the most part -- Elston Turner and Khris Middleton -- with potentially a third (Loubeau) chipping in. Yes, a 3-point shooter like Naji Hibbert or Daniel Alexander could also get hot, but for the most part A&M can win if Turner and Middleton can outduel Mizzou's most high-volume scorers (Marcus Denmon and Mike Dixon). Without a victory in that matchup, it will be difficult (but not impossible) for A&M to generate the necessary offense.

Prediction

Ken Pomeroy's projections say Mizzou takes this one, 69-60. I am a little more wary than that, however. I say A&M's offense offers a peek at its ceiling, stays hot for a while, and gives Mizzou a really strong game. I have faith in this team to win regardless, but we'll say it's more in the neighborhood of Mizzou 74, A&M 71.

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