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Know Your Aggie Overlords, er, Rivals: Texas A&M


Is it okay if I'm still quite optimistic about the season as a whole, but I'm extraordinarily pessimistic about this particular game?  Mizzou got stomped in their last trip out of town, and now they have to take on the team that, Nebraska aside, has matched up most beautifully with them in Mike Anderson's tenure.  This is the perfect opportunity for Mizzou to prove that this is a different kind of team, but let's be honest -- they can lose this game, and none of the true goals for the season (aside from maybe the conference title, which isn't a huge concern of mine) will be off the table.  Surprise me, guys.

Texas A&M: 15-1 (2-0)

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
Points Per Possession (PPP)
Points Per Shot (PPS)
2-PT FG% 50.3%
3-PT FG% 35.0%
FT% 72.5%
True Shooting % 56.2%

ATM Opp.
Assists/Gm 16.3
Steals/Gm 7.3
Turnovers/Gm 14.6
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO

ATM Opp.
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 12.3
Offensive Reb./Gm
Difference +2.3

In losing Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis to expired eligibility this offseason, many people expected a decent-sized drop-off from Texas A&M in 2010-11 (I had them holding mostly steady, but that's neither here nor there).  Instead, the Aggies redefined themselves and have come out like gangbusters this year.

This team is looooooooong and athletic, with only one player in the rotation bigger than 215, but with six of their top 7-8 contributors measuring 6'6 or taller.  They're not the best team in the world in terms of ball-handling, and they might be vulnerable to steals, but they disrupt every shot you take, and they rebound the hell out of the ball.  And a lot of their taller players are strong shooters from the outside ... which could be an issue against a small-guard Missouri team that has had trouble with good shooters shooting over them.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

ATM Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

ATM Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 39
Effective FG% 94
Turnover % 196
MU big
Off. Reb. % 8
ATM big
ATM big
MU Offense vs ATM Defense Ranks

MU Offense ATM Defense Advantage
Efficiency 27
Effective FG% 45
Turnover % 15
Off. Reb. % 150
ATM big

Where the Aggies are weakest

A&M has one specific weakness Mizzou absolutely must exploit if they are to win -- they turn the ball over a lot.  They rank 196th in Off. Turnover%, and even worse (or, if you're a Mizzou fan, better), they rank 271st in Off. Steal%.  You can take the ball from them.  Dash Harris is a mostly reliable ball-handler, but he doesn't bring much else to the table.  He doesn't shoot unless he has to, and he's basically there to distribute.  Once the ball is distributed, most of the other Aggie ball-handlers are a bit sloppy with turnovers.  Mizzou should be able to force 15+ turnovers if they have their sea legs (they certainly didn't against Colorado).

A&M also ranks 213th in Off. Block%, meaning Mizzou's defense (20th in Def. Block%) might be able to get their hands on some shots.

On defense, the Aggies tend to foul a bit much, though it remains to be seen if that is something Mizzou can actually take advantage of.  Depending on how this game is called, either team could go to the line a lot ... or, since this is the Big 12 we're talking about, both teams will go to the line, 50+ fouls will be called, and the game will take 2.5 hours, minimum.  Good times.  If I knew how/where to look up who the officials were going to be, I would.

Where they are best

Teams do not shoot well at all against them.  A&M ranks 13th in Def. 3PT% and 41st in Def. 2PT%.  Combine that with the fact that they rank 11th in Defensive Rebounding, and you can see how they win games.  They don't turn you over a lot, but the strong field goal defense allows them to get away with fouling too much.

A&M also crashes the hell out of the offensive boards as well, so a lot of this game might be determined by how dialed in Missouri is on the glass.  We've seen Mizzou outrebound or break even against great rebounding teams (Old Dominion), and we've seen them get outhustled by lesser teams.  Which Mizzou shows up on the glass (and whether Laurence Bowers and/or Ricardo Ratliffe get into foul trouble) is key.

One other strength: they are fantastic free throw shooters.  They rank a good-not-great 57th in FT% for the season, but Mizzou doesn't want to get into the position of having to foul in the final seconds.  Their top players are all great -- Khris Middleton shoots 82.2% from the line, Nathan Walkup 85.7%, and B.J. Holmes 80.0%.  If you have to foul in the final seconds, go after Dash Harris (51.7%).

Texas A&M's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from
    No. 6 Washington, 63-62
    vs No. 28 Temple, 54-51
    No. 61 Oklahoma State, 71-48
    vs No. 86 Arkansas, 71-62 (OT)
    No. 116 Pacific, 79-59
    No. 120 Stephen F. Austin, 62-53
    at No. 135 Oklahoma, 69-51
    No. 179 Nicholls State, 66-55
    No. 217 McNeese State, 66-57
    No. 221 Wagner, 86-51
    at No. 297 Texas A&M-CC, 86-65
    vs No. 309 Manhattan, 74-45
    No. 333 Prairie View A&M, 87-63
    No. 342 Alcorn State, 88-56
    Texas A&M-International, 77-46
  • Losses
    vs No. 52 Boston College, 65-67

No, they haven't played a ton of elite competition by any means ... but the top teams they have faced, they've beaten.  They were tripped up by Boston College in the first round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando over Thanksgiving weekend, but they haven't lost since.  They beat Temple in Orlando that same weekend, they sneaked past Washington at home, and they most recently annihilated a decent Oklahoma State team at home.  They may be vulnerable away from Reed Arena (their only road games were against lowly Oklahoma and really lowly A&M-CC), but ... the game is in Reed Arena, that doesn't really matter, does it?

Texas A&M Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Khris Middleton (6'7, 215, So.) 15.2 0.56 27.3 MPG, 15.0 PPG (54.8% 2PT, 37.5% 3PT, 82.2% FT), 4.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 TOPG
Nathan Walkup (6'7, 210, Sr.) 11.5 0.49 23.4 MPG, 10.3 PPG (58.7% 2PT, 40.0% 3PT, 85.7% FT), 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.5 TOPG
B.J. Holmes (5'11, 175, Sr.) 10.4 0.37 27.9 MPG, 9.3 PPG (39.1% 2PT, 40.0% 3PT, 80.0% FT), 3.6 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.6 TOPG
David Loubeau (6'8, 203, Jr.) 9.8 0.40 24.5 MPG, 11.4 PPG (50.0% FG, 71.2% FT), 5.1 RPG, 1.4 TOPG
Kourtney Roberson (6'9, 230, Fr.) 6.5 0.52 12.5 MPG, 6.0 PPG (59.4% FG, 60.6% FT), 4.4 RPG
Naji Hibbert (6'6, 200, So.) 5.8 0.28 20.2 MPG, 7.3 PPG (50.0% 2PT, 38.1% 3PT, 72.7% FT), 2.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.6 TOPG
Ray Turner (6'8, 220, So.) 3.8 0.26 14.6 MPG, 4.3 PPG (44.2% FG, 57.9% FT), 3.8 RPG
Dash Harris (6'1, 175, Jr.) 3.4 0.13 26.5 MPG, 3.8 PPG (35.0% FG, 17.1% 3PT, 51.7% FT), 3.8 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.1 TOPG
Andrew Darko (6'1, 175, Sr.) 1.2 0.11 10.6 MPG, 2.1 PPG (50.0% 2PT, 28.6% 3PT), 1.4 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 (27%), Loubeau (25%), Roberson (24%).
  • Highest Floor%: Roberson (44%), Middleton (43%), Walkup (43%).
  • Highest %Pass: Harris (73%), Holmes (66%), Middleton (51%).
  • Highest %Shoot: Loubeau (52%), Roberson (47%), Turner (44%).
  • Highest %Fouled: Turner (28%), Loubeau (22%), Roberson (21%).
  • Highest %TO: Turner (13%), Roberson (10%), Hibbert (9%), Darko (9%).
  • At 6'7 each, Khris Middleton and Nathan Walkup should be a terrifying combination against Missouri, for the reasons mentioned above.  Good ball movement can take advantage of constant Mizzou pressure, and as 6'0 Mizzou defenders are attempting to recover as the ball gets swung around, tall outside shooters can just go right over them.  It worked for Alec Burks ... hell, it worked for Austin Freeman, and he's only 6'3.  If Mizzou cannot disrupt the flow of the offense before it gets to these two players (especially Walkup, who is more perimeter-oriented), they could be in trouble.

    (Naji Hibbert is only 1% less terrifying. At least David Loubeau doesn't take 3's ... even if he does get to the line all the time.)
  • I really, really like Middleton.  I hate going against players I really like.
  • Ray Turner, last seen by Mizzou fans when he was completely emasculating Kim English, appears to be going through a decent-sized sophomore slump.  He is getting to the line alright and is good on the offensive glass, but he turns the ball over a lot and isn't shooting quite as well as he could be.  Hopefully the sight of Kimmeh won't snap him back into form.
  • A&M's overall athletic depth was what ended Mizzou's long home winning streak last year, and they have no less of it this year.

Okay, sorry Kimmeh, but I have to embed the dunk video.  It was just that fantastic.  It was at a key moment in the game, and I couldn't even be upset about it.

Keys to the Game

  1. Rounds 2-3.  When your team has only lost twice, it is hard to come up with any true commonalities among losses, but here's one:

    With 14:04 left in the first half against Georgetown, it was 9-9.  With 9:20 left, it was 31-13, Georgetown.  A 22-4 run over about five minutes.

    With 14:30 left in the first half against Colorado, it was 15-14, Mizzou.  With 10:59 left, it was 26-17 Colorado.  A 12-2 run over about 3.5 minutes.

    In both games, Mizzou bounced back.  They whittled away at Georgetown's 18-point lead until they took the lead themselves with 8:00 remaining in the game.  Against Colorado, they unleashed a 12-2 run to take a one-point lead with 4:30 left in the first half.  But coming back takes a lot of energy, especially in another team's gym.  Colorado immediately responded to Mizzou's run with a 15-2 run of their own, and Texas A&M will do exactly the same if Mizzou is playing catch-up too much.

    In fact, this exact same thing happened the last time Mizzou went to College Station.  It was even after five minutes, then A&M went on a ridiculous 28-10 run over the next ten minutes to open up a 20-point lead.  When Mizzou loses, it's typically because they lost traction once substitutions began.  Is Mizzou's bench ready to make a run of their own in a hostile environment?  Here's to hoping the answer is yes.

    (The silver lining?  This exact same trend occurred in most of Missouri's losses in the 2008-09 season.  So ... ELITE EIGHT, HERE WE COME!)

  2. Dixon vs Dash.  Against a solid FG% defense, Mizzou is going to need either Marcus Denmon to go crazy like he did against Nebraska, or they are going to need some easy buckets.  If non-shooting Dash Harris is able to abuse Mike Dixon when A&M has the ball, penetrating and distributing to A&M's big shooters, Mizzou is in serious trouble.  Last year, Harris committed six turnovers against Mizzou, and his shakiness was a major reason why Mizzou led by 11 with 14 minutes(ish) left.  Mizzou no longer has J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor, but they will need to get in his head just as much this time around.

  3. Justin Safford.  Why Saffy?  Because more than anybody else, he sets Mizzou's mentality for the game.  When Mizzou faced a phenomenal rebounding team in Old Dominion, he threw his body around as much as he possibly could, went out of his way to tip every pass/rebound that he couldn't quite reach, and generally installed in Mizzou a harassing, pesky mindset that they used to eventually blow out the Monarchs.  Well ... A&M is a better overall team than ODU, but they are only ODU's equal on the glass.  If Mizzou could hang with ODU, they can do the same here, but it is going to take some serious hustle.  Though he will always toss up a dumb shot or two over the course of a given game, if Safford can provide senior leadership through pure, reckless hustle, he could spark the team as much or more than any other player.


You know by now that I never bet against a streak ... and I honestly cannot remember the last time Missouri beat A&M.  It was before Mike Anderson came, that's all I know.  I've laid out above how Mizzou can beat A&M -- pressure Harris, rebound their asses off, etc. -- but until I see them do it, I can't predict it.  If Mizzou does win, it will likely be by an up-tempo score resembling 78-75 or something.  But I'll go ahead and assume that A&M builds a cushion in the middle of the first half and rides it to victory ... say, A&M 77, Mizzou 65 or so.