Missouri heads back out onto the road in search of their first win away from Mizzou Arena in the Kim Anderson era...it's going to be tough.
Get to know the Texas A&M Aggies
Coming into this season, Texas A&M was one of the teams most people felt would have a good opportunity to be in the conversation for top of the SEC and a solid team to dance in March. If you recall, last season the Aggies were in the bubble conversation, but couldn't get a signature win of any kind to hang their hats on. They then went out in terrible fashion in their first SEC tournament game against Auburn, and that was all she wrote; a trip to the NIT was on the docket instead of the big dance. In that time, A&M hired associate head coach, recruiting dynamo and former SEC head coach, Rick Stansbury who has really had an enormously large impact on the Aggie roster currently.
Well it's a new year, and a new team. The Aggies currently sit as the only undefeated team in conference and have outside of two scares, dominated everyone they've played. In the nonconference season they did have the suffered two losses, one of which is still a bit puzzling. They lost a close game on the road against an up and coming Arizona State team (don't make Bobby Hurley mad, you wouldn't like him when he's mad) and then took a weird loss to a top 40 Syracuse team who would suffer a loss to St. Johns, possibly the worst high major Power 5 team in the country.
The Aggies did rack up quite a few nice wins during the nonconference season, taking games against former conference mate K-State and frivolous lawsuit threatener Baylor. Couple those with a big win over former rival Texas and Gonzaga and Texas A&M was looking formidable. Through the noncon the Aggies had more signature wins than all of last year and barring some sort of collapse were going to be in the March conversation once the new year began.
In conference the Aggies have kept rolling and haven't looked back. Outside of a close loss to Mississippi State on the road where Danuel House didn't play and a closer than expected game with the Gators, the Aggies have dominated their opponents. They destroyed Georgia by 30 on the road, took down LSU by 15 at home, and dominated Arkansas to open SEC play. Throw in a win over Tennessee and you've got their season in a nutshell.
BEST WIN(S): Baylor (20) 80-61, Texas (35) 84-73, Gonzaga (36)62-61, Florida (30) 71-68
WORST LOSS: Arizona State (67) 67-54
And now time for a chat...
Q&A With Good Bull Hunting
Gigthem08 of GBH, and great friend to RMN has offered up some of his morning to give us the rundown of what's been going on with Texas A&M and how their season has gone to date.
RockMNation: The Aggies are having a tremendous year to date, to what would you attribute this success to primarily? Staying healthy, time in the program?
Gigthem08: Staying healthy, time in the program? I think it's a combination of a strong recruiting class and unselfish senior leadership. The seniors have taken these guys under their wing from day one, and the result is a squad with well-defined roles. It's easier to pull off when you're winning, sure, but it's nice to see.
RMN: We all know about Alex Caruso (how is he still in college?!) and Danuel House, so tell us more about Tyler Davis who appears to be having a nice freshman year?
Gigthem08: Davis' post game is very, very refined for a true fish. When you add that to his natural size/strength, you have a guy that's certainly headed for the SEC all-freshman team. With four seniors and Davis in crunch time, I'm comfortable in just about every game down the stretch.
RMN: To what would you attribute A&M's two losses to, and is there a common theme?
Gigthem08: We got blitzed in Tempe, plain and simple. Sometimes it all goes south on the road. 'Cuse is tougher to isolate, especially given recent results, but they really were playing well early in the season.
RMN: If Rick Stansbury were to leave the program for a headcoaching gig after this season, how much of a adverse effect do you think that would have on A&M's future?
Gigthem08: I don't like this timeline and refuse to acknowledge it. (I.e., it would not be ideal)
RMN: What's your prediction for tomorrow's game and how do you see it playing out?
Gigthem08: It's a sellout, and the fever has taken hold in College Station. History tells us that usually means A&M is about to do something kinda dumb, but this year's squad has the depth and balance to keep the train rolling on off nights. I think we take this game by 10-15.
Thanks to Gigthem08 for taking the time to respond to my questions, he's a great follow on Twitter for all you're A&M info and if you're not following Good Bull Hunting in general, you're doing yourself a disservice.
The Aggies, like South Carolina before them do pretty much everything right, but the Aggies are even better. Looking at the Aggies they really only have one true weakness, that's it. A&M does it both on offense and defense, with the offense in the top 30 of the country and the defense in the top 10. They'll not only shoot better than you (top 40) but they'll make sure your shot doesn't go in (top 50).
Not only can they affect your shot, both from the inside and the outside, they turn you over at an incredible rate, ranking as the fifth best team in the country. Honestly, the only thing they aren't great at is rebounding on the defensive side of the glass. If you're missing your shots, you've got a chance at another, but as noted above, they don't really allow you to take good ones. They do have a tendency to foul a bit, but foul shooting is not going to keep a team like Mizzou in a game with this year's version of the Aggies.
When they're shooting the ball, which they do very effectively from inside and outside, they dominate the offensive boards, pretty much ensuring that you don't have much of a chance to make any hay when on the defensive side of things.
A&M is led by three seniors, Alex Caruso (who has been at A&M forever), Danuel House and Jalen Jones. Caruso is the name most Mizzou fans are most familiar with and is the prime facilitator for both House and Jones as well as freshman Tyler Davis. He will get his own shot, and if he's looking to score look for Anthony Collins to be distributor. House, Jones and Davis are all bigger bodies that can move quickly, who can score on the inside but also have a nice stroke from distance.
The Aggies are truly the sum of their parts, they're going to be able to get to you anywhere on the floor and they can score on you from everywhere; how a team stops that, well to date that's been complicated.
All that said, let's take a look at the three keys to a Mizzou victory:
1) Don't Turn the Ball Over
In SEC play, the Tigers have done very well keeping track of the ball and not giving it away against some very active defenses. To even have a chance to stay in this game, the Tigers are going to have to keep that trend alive. A&M is a team that wants to turn you over, so if the Tigers can hold onto the ball and limit their mistakes, they'll have a better chance.
2) Rebound the Ball
A&M does not do a good job rebounding on the defensive side of things, so make them pay. Guys like Gant, Puryear, Woods and Rosburg have a chance here to establish themselves a bit, so take advantage. Crash the boards on the offensive side of things and get as many chances as you can at scoring some points.
3) Get to the Line
Mizzou has been very strong getting to the line this season, and if they have a chance at winning, what they do at the line will be important to complement the rest of their offensive game plan. Keep slashing, get the Aggies in foul trouble and good things will come.
Looking at things from an outside perspective, this game looks like it could be bad, maybe even Arkansas bad. Mizzou has not been able to limit teams once they start their runs and A&M is too good to be allowed to do what every other SEC team has done to Mizzou so far, which could spell trouble for our Tigers.
KenPom has this as a comfortable 79 - 60 win for A&M with only a 4% chance at a Mizzou victory. I think that may be a little high, but after what we've seen so far, and the fact that Mizzou hasn't faced a team as complete as the Aggies to date, I'm thinking A&M 85 - Mizzou 65. Hopefully it's closer than that...