Texas A&M at Missouri preview: Aggies are all-defense

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M is either the best home team in the country or the worst road team. The young Aggies play tremendous defense, but the offense rarely leaves College Station.

You think it's been frustrating rooting for Missouri this year? Texas A&M swept Tennessee, whipped Arkansas at home, and has put together a 7-1 SEC record at Reed Arena. The Aggies have also gone 1-7 on the road (with the one win being in Knoxville), lost by 28 points at South Carolina, and lost at home to North Texas.

As you'll see below, the Aggies are 5-1 against top-100 teams at home with an average scoring margin of +8; they're 1-7 against top-100 teams away from home (average scoring margin: -12). They're also 3-2 against teams ranked in the 100s ... and 3-2 against teams ranked in the 200s. They're inexperienced, they're fantastic on defense, and they're absolutely woeful on offense. They're a mess. And they're occasionally really good.

Texas A&M Aggies (17-12, 8-8)


A&M
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
64.3
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.01 0.97
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.21 1.16
2-PT FG% 48% 46%
3-PT FG% 32% 29%
FT% 64% 67%
True Shooting % 51.7% 49.9%




A&M Opp.
Assists/Gm 12.8 12.1
Steals/Gm 6.4 6.2
Turnovers/Gm 11.3 13.1
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.70 1.39




A&M Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 10.7 11.2
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 9.4 11.1
Difference -1.3 -0.1

Ken Pomeroy Stats

A&M Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

A&M Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 270 155 MU big
Effective FG% 235 82 MU big
Turnover % 94 315 A&M big
Off. Reb. % 296 112 MU big
FTA/FGA 187 142 MU
MU Offense vs A&M Defense Ranks

MU Offense A&M Defense Advantage
Efficiency 19 30 push
Effective FG% 52 35 push
Turnover % 182 64 A&M big
Off. Reb. % 52 145 MU
FTA/FGA 22 118 MU

Where the Aggies are weakest

Just about everything related to offense qualifies as a weakness. The Aggies can't shoot -- 192nd in 2PT%, 281st in 3PT%, 339th in FT% -- they can't avoid getting their shots blocked (290th in Block%), they can't rebound (296th in OR%), and while they avoid turnovers overall, the turnovers they commit are live-ball turnovers (225th in Steal%). Two newcomers basically take a large percentage of the shots while the others run down court to play defense ... where their only real weakness comes on the glass (145th in DR%).

Oh yeah, and they're terribly inexperienced (296th in Experience).

As one would expect for a team that is all-defense, no-offense, A&M plays at a remarkably slow pace (306th in Adj. Tempo). That's not a weakness, per say ... more of a warning.

Where they are best

What they lack in experience, they make up for in interchangeable (and rather lengthy) parts. They are 78th in Bench Minutes, with only one player averaging more than 25.1 minutes per game and eight averaging at least 15.7. They are also 90th in Effective Height (which makes their rebounding woes inexcusable).

The offense is not completely without strength -- the Aggies are 94th in TO% and 84th in A/FGM, which means the ball can move pretty well at times -- but a vast majority of A&M's redeeming traits show up when the opponent has the ball. You do not shoot well against them (98th in 2PT%, ninth in 3PT%*, 16th in FT%), and you probably don't win the ball-control battle either (64th in TO%).

* One note about the 3-point percentage: A&M is indeed ninth in 3PT% allowed but 29th in 3PA/FGA. Opponents take a ton of 3s, and we know very well how that adds randomness to a game. So it's possible that A&M has been a bit lucky in the percentage of 3s that have rimmed out.

A&M's Season to Date

  • Wins vs. Teams Ranked 1-300 (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at No. 21 Tennessee (57-56)
    No. 21 Tennessee (68-65, OT)
    No. 45 Arkansas (69-53)
    No. 65 LSU (83-73)
    No. 88 Ole Miss (71-60)
    No. 98 Buffalo (82-58)
    No. 102 Alabama (63-48)
    No. 123 Houston (74-57)
    No. 146 South Carolina (75-67)
    No. 204 Sam Houston State (79-62)
    No. 217 Mississippi State (72-52)
    No. 290 UTPA (63-46)
  • Losses
    at No. 3 Florida (36-69)
    vs. No. 18 SMU (52-55)
    at No. 23 Kentucky (51-68)
    vs. No. 31 Oklahoma (52-64)
    at No. 65 LSU (49-68)
    at No. 82 Georgia (50-62)
    No. 100 Vanderbilt (55-66)
    at No. 100 Vanderbilt (54-57, OT)
    at No. 146 South Carolina (52-80)
    vs. No. 152 Missouri State (67-73)
    No. 207 North Texas (41-61)
    at No. 217 Mississippi State (72-81, OT)

A&M vs. Top 100 at home: A&M 71, Opponent 63 (+8)
A&M vs. Top 100 away from home: Opponent 62, A&M 50 (-12)
A&M vs. No. 101-200: A&M 66, Opponent 65 (+1)
A&M vs. No. 201-300: A&M 65, Opponent 60 (+5)

This just makes no sense, other than to illustrate that A&M is either one of the best home teams in the country or one of the worst road teams. Or both. You're supposed to play better at home; you're not supposed to play 20 points better at home.

A&M Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Kourtney Roberson (6'9, 244, Jr.) 11.8 0.47 25.1 MPG, 9.7 PPG (59% 2PT, 60% FT), 6.7 RPG, 1.3 TOPG, 2.5 PFPG
Alex Caruso (6'5, 183, So.) 11.3 0.39 28.9 MPG, 8.4 PPG (51% 2PT, 30% 3PT, 66% FT), 4.8 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 2.3 TOPG, 2.7 PFPG
Jamal Jones (6'8, 197, Jr.) 10.6 0.40 26.8 MPG, 12.9 PPG (36% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 79% FT), 4.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.5 TOPG
Jordan Green (6'5, 188, Jr.) 7.1 0.30 24.0 MPG, 7.1 PPG (56% 2PT, 34% 3PT, 63% FT), 2.3 RPG, 1.4 APG
Fabyon Harris (5'11, 178, Sr.) 6.0 0.26 23.0 MPG, 6.2 PPG (57% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 74% FT), 2.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 TOPG
Davonte Fitzgerald (6'7, 201, Fr.) 5.0 0.32 15.7 MPG, 7.3 PPG (44% 2PT, 29% 3PT, 59% FT), 2.3 RPG
Antwan Space (6'8, 224, So.) 4.9 0.22 22.1 MPG, 5.7 PPG (45% 2PT, 24% 3PT, 56% FT), 4.6 RPG, 1.3 TOPG, 2.0 PFPG
Shawn Smith (6'4, 192, RSFr.) 4.8 0.22 22.2 MPG, 5.7 PPG (39% 2PT, 21% 3PT, 67% FT), 3.2 RPG, 1.3 APG
Tavario Miller (6'7, 224, Fr.) 1.9 0.19 10.1 MPG, 2.0 PPG (43% 2PT, 48% FT), 2.5 RPG
Blake McDonald (5'11, 175, Sr.) 1.1 0.19 5.5 MPG, 0.6 PPG, 0.8 APG
Dylan Johns (6'11, 227, Fr.) 0.3 0.06 6.2 MPG, 0.5 PPG, 0.6 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%: Jones (29%), Fitzgerald (29%), Roberson (20%)
  • Highest Floor%: Roberson (45%), Caruso (43%), Green (42%)
  • Highest %Pass: Caruso (71%), Harris (59%), Green (51%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Fitzgerald (68%), Jones (51%), Roberson (45%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Miller (22%), Roberson (18%), Fitzgerald (19%)
  • Highest %T/O: Miller (11%), Space (10%), Roberson (9%)
  • Highest OR%: Roberson (13%), Miller (9%), Space (6%)
  • Highest DR%: Miller (19%), Roberson (17%), Space (17%)

  • When your best player from an Adj. GS perspective averages fewer than 10 (real) points per game, you know that either a) you're a defense-heavy team or b) you're not very good. (Or, again, both.) Kourtney Roberson is A&M's best overall contributor, but only two Aggies have Usage Rates over 20%, and he's not one of them. Newbies Jones and Fitzgerald take most of the shots but have combined to make just 40% of their 2-pointers. This offense stinks.

  • The offense doesn't flow through Roberson, but he gets a ton of second-chance opportunities and free throws if you let him.

  • Alex Caruso is a 6'5 gnat.

  • Antwan Space is 4-for-7 on 3-pointers against Tennessee (2-for-2 on game-winners) and 5-for-31 against everybody else. If Vols fans needed proof of my ongoing "Basketball is really dumb sometimes" postulate, they got it against A&M this year.

Keys to the Game

  1. The glass. Kourtney Roberson is a great rebounder on a terrible rebounding team. The ability of Ryan Rosburg, Johnathan Williams III, Tony Criswell, Torren Jones, etc., to keep him off the glass will be paramount. If he's not pulling down second-chance opportunities, this becomes one of the worst offenses Mizzou has faced all year.

  2. The 3-ball. Of course. A&M takes nearly 18 3-pointers per game even though the Aggies rarely make them. Teams have tended to make them against Missouri in SEC play. Basketball is really dumb sometimes. You get my drift here. And on the flipside, A&M allows you to shoot a lot of 3s, and considering his recent slump (9-for-35 in his last seven games), this might be a good game for Jabari Brown to find his stroke from outside again.

  3. Caruso vs. Clarkson. Alex Caruso is a strong defender and a decent passer. The Aggies have won three of four games, and in this stretch, he has averaged 10.5 PPG (he's shot 63% on 3-pointers), 6.0 APG, 4.3 RPG, and 2.0 SPG. If he is allowed to replicate or surpass Jordan Clarkson's stat line, A&M could stick around.

Prediction

A&M has won five of eight since a five-game losing streak, and the Aggies have improved from 165th in Pomeroy's rankings on February 5 to 127th today. Aside from the strange game in Knoxville, they have been downright awful on the road, which is obviously a good thing here, but they are certainly capable of playing at a pretty high level at times thanks to that defense. If Missouri plays smart, focused and aggressive like it did against Mississippi State, and if the bigs hit the glass hard, A&M probably won't have any answers after a while. But if the Tigers shoot poorly, lose focus on defense, and allow the Aggies to find success on the glass, an upset is certainly conceivable.

Pomeroy projects a 69-61 Mizzou win, and honestly, with A&M's ridiculous home-road splits, I could see something more in the neighborhood of 71-55. But the intensity on the glass will be key. If A&M's more dialed in than Missouri early on, this could be a tense night.

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