The last few weeks haven’t been easy for Aggie Basketball. Not only did A&M get mauled by Florida, but they followed that performance up with a disastrous loss to Rice in College Station. If that wasn’t already enough, the Aggies lost their freshman point guard Jamal Branch, who informed Billy Kennedy that he intented to transfer a few hours before A&M’s last contest against Arkansas Tech.
Ray Turner has struggled against size this season, but is one of the only Aggies that has the athleticism to cause problems for Baylor.
The road doesn’t get any easier tonight, when the Aggies kick off conference play against one of the nation’s remaining unbeaten teams, the sixth ranked Baylor Bears. Last week Kennedy said that he realizes the immense challenge that the Aggies face in Waco.
"Obviously Baylor's one of the best teams in the country,” said Kennedy. “Their talent and their length, they look like they have really good chemistry. They're getting great guard play. It's going to be a challenge. I know we struggled with them last year and I think they're a lot better than they were last year. So it's going to be quite a challenge.”
Though the task is a tall one, Kennedy said the Aggies are looking forward to facing the Bears.
“We're going to have to play a really good game (to win), but we're excited about the opportunity. Nobody's beaten them yet, so to have an opportunity to beat an undefeated team is a great challenge,” he said.
When Baylor has the ball...
Despite their awful performance in Florida, the Aggies still rank among the nation’s elite on the defensive end of the court, but they haven’t faced a team that has anywhere close to the front court capability that the Bears have. (Though, to be fair, I’m not certain such a team even exists.)
Baylor has flexibility on the offensive side, but there are two huge keys for the Aggies. They always need to be near Brady Heslip and they absolutely have to keep the Baylor front line off of the offensive boards.
Scott Drew has his most talented Baylor team yet this season.
Heslip is shooting the deep ball at an absolutely blistering pace this season, making 49% of his shots from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Aggies have struggled in recent seasons against athletic teams, and they don’t come any more athletic than Scott Drew’s team. When the Aggies get stops, they can’t afford to let the Bears get extra possessions because of offensive rebounds.
The player to keep an eye on for Baylor is Quincy Acy. Though Perry Jones and Quincy Miller will both be NBA players someday, Acy is the biggest indicated of how the Bears are playing. He’s the emotional leader for the team, and when he’s active on the floor, Baylor is usually in pretty good shape.
When Texas A&M has the ball...
Where to start? The A&M offense has been absolutely dismal for the most part this season, and Baylor is a team that has the size and athleticism to make things even harder on the Aggies.
If Khris Middleton was ever going to break out this season, this would be the game to do it. If Middleton isn’t an efficient player on the offensive end, the Aggies are going to have an extremely difficult time scoring points. Middleton is the only A&M player that has the ability to cause matchup problems for the Baylor defense.
Ray Turner and David Loubeau have had a hard time against quality size all season, so the biggest key for those two in tonight’s game is just to not turn the ball over. They have to take advantage when they get opportunities, but they can’t try to do to much.
On the defensive end for Baylor look out for Pierre Jackson and AJ Walton, the two have over 40 combined steals on the season.
For better or worse, the Aggies are back to just one option at point guard, senior Dash Harris.
Three Players to Watch
Khris Middleton - Quite simply, the Aggies probably aren’t going to win this game without a monster game from Middleton. He’s the only A&M player that has the scoring ability against a zone that also possesses the athleticism to not be a liability on the defensive end of the court.
Perry Jones III There aren’t many players in college basketball more physically giften than Baylor’s sophomore forward “PJ3.” Jones has a tendency to float in and out of the action at times, but when he’s one he’s one of the best players in America. The Aggies will have to run Keith Davis at him, but that’s a tall order for Davis.
Dash Harris - To the dismay of Aggie fans everywhere, the show that is Aggie Basketball will be directed yet again by senior guard Dash Harris. With the announcement of Jamal Branch’s intent to transfer out of the program, the Aggies don’t have any other options at point guard. They’ll rotate Elston Turner in at point guard at times, but the Aggies are going to live and die with Dash Harris at point guard. With Baylor’s zone, he’s going to have to figure out a way to be effective tomorrow if the Aggies are going to have any chance.