Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Texas A&M Basketball Preview

After the recent disappointing trip to Columbia, the Buffs return home for a nice 2-game homestand against some interesting opponents.  First up are the powerful Texas A&M Aggies.  CU enters the game in the midst of a dreadful 1-5 run in conference play.  Many of those game have been close, but the Buffs just haven't been able to come through against strong competition over the past few weeks.  The 22nd ranked Aggies visit Boulder for the last time in the midst of their own painful painful slide of four losses in their last 5 games.  Both teams will be looking to get back into league contention with a win tonight at the CEC.  Action starts at 7pm, and the game can be seen on ESPNU if you're too lame to make the drive up to Boulder.

It's do or die time for the CU basketball team.  With the loss to Missouri the team probably needs to win 6 of their final 7 to have any hope of making the Dance.  This would include wins over UT, A&M, Nebraska and K-State at home and Tech and ISU on the road.  All of those games could be considered "winnable" in some respect (yes, even the UT game), but, and lets be honest here, going 6 of 7 is a seriously tall order for a team who has been playing some pretty shaky basketball over the last 4 weeks.  Regardless, the Buffs should be real hungry to defend their home court and get back into contention for the 4th bye slot in the upcoming Big XII tournament.
Cory and the boys need to get back to winning ways, and tonight is as good a time as any.  From: The BDC

Tonight will also mark the final time CU will be facing A&M in regular-season play, so this will be my opportunity to say farewell to "the other" big Texas school.  A few years back I visited College Station for probably the only time in my life.  Let's just say I was uncomfortable; it's a little surreal to find an entire city stuck in the 50's.

The whole A&M "thing" has always seemed just this side of a cult to me; and an extremely pasty one at that.  I don't really have anything bad to say about A&M in parting, but I would suggest to them that they don't drink the kool-aid when it's passed around with free pairs of white Nike's.  I do hope they get into the SEC eventually, I think they'll be happier there.  Also, I've always thought of the whole "yell-leader" shtick as a uniquely Texas way of telling your parents that you're gay.  
There sure are a lot of pictures of them holding each other close... not that there's anything wrong with that.

Click below for my preview

Opponents season so far - As bad of a month as it's been for CU basketball, it can be argued that it's been even worse for A&M.  What had once been a top-ten team with dreams of challenging KU and UT for the conference title is now a team on a 1-4 slide.  A 3-0 start highlighted by a win over Mizzou (sound familiar?)  has now morphed into a 4-4 conference record.  Last week they to dropped back-to-back home games against Texas rivals Baylor and UT.  Texas especially has been their downfall.  Two 20-point losses on national TV is all the Aggies have to show for their 2 games against big brother.
UT has flat destroyed A&M in their two meetings this season.

Overall, I still feel the Aggies are a pretty solid team, but they have some pretty glaring flaws.  They only score barely over 70 points per game, and have been known to go long stretches without a field-goal when pushed hard by a good defense.  A week and a half ago they only managed 48 points against Nebraska.  Not satisfied with that offensive futility, they followed it up with only 49 against UT at home.  A strong defensive effort will hurt these guys.

A point of emphasis on the offensive side of the ball, they do grab a lot of offensive boards (40% according to kenpom) and score an overly large percentage of their points from the line (26%).  Defensively, they're good at defending the 3 (30%), but don't block a whole lot of shots.

Coaching - This is where things get interesting.  As you may have read essentially everywhere this week, Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon is Tad Boyle's coaching mentor.  Turgeon is even generally credited with getting Boyle his first coaching job at Oregon, and made a strong pitch for Tad to get the CU position.  It's clear that Coach Turgeon saw something special in his fellow Jayhawk as he kept Boyle along as he proceeded rebuild Jacksonville St and Wichita St until Tad left for his first head coaching position at Northern Colorado.  Not only is Boyle a Turgeon product, but much of Boyle's staff are former Turgeon disciples as well.  This is a true case of mentor versus student(s). 

Expect man-to-man defense paired with a offense that leans on guard-play.  Hrmm.... that sounds familiar....
That dude on the left looks familiar.... where have I seen him before?  Him and Mark Turgeon must be close or something.

Coach Turgeon has been one of the hotter young coaching names in college basketball over the last decade.  Starting with his productive stint with Wichita State, the Kansas native parlayed 4 post-season appearances with the Shockers (including a Sweet-16 run in '06) into a plush gig picking up the  fully-stocked Aggies when former coach Billy Gillispie bolted for Kentucky in '07.  Coach Turgeon was able to retain all of Gillespie's high-touted recruits, and he has taken A&M to 3 straight years of Tournament appearances with victories since taking over.  Considering that Gillispie is now out of coaching, I'm sure the Aggies are happy with their end of the bargain.
Coach Turgeon has gotten it done in College Station.

Key Players - The Aggies are lead by 6-7 sophomore forward Khris Middleton.  He averages 15/5/3, and is a threat all over the court.  He is, however, coming off of being shut-out against Texas last week.  He went 0'fer from the field and committed 4 fouls.  Not a good night.  Expect him to play much better than that against CU.
Middleton is a versatile player who can damage you in many ways.

Additionally the Aggie lineup features 6-8 power forward David Loubeau.  He adds 10 points and 5 rebounds per night.  He always seems to me to be a big-time interior threat, however he doesn't get as many rebounds as you would expect, and he doesn't make many blocks (which is something you can say about the team in general).

BJ Holmes is the point guard.  The 5-11 senior can score a bit, at just under 10 points per night, but he is well suited to play distributor in the Aggie offense as he is 5th in the conference in assist-turnover ratio (2.2:1).  Since CU sports a series of larger guards to throw at him, the Buffs may be able to disrupt him a little bit.

Prediction - A&M is another team without a lot of size, although they have a lot of "long" forwards to throw at the post to make up for a lack of anyone over 6-9.  They don't rebound particularly well, and they don't cause a lot of turnovers.  Hell, I'm not even really all that surprised that they've stumbled the last few weeks, and I'm starting to get the impression that they were largely overrated headed into conference play.  Considering this, and how well CU plays at home, I am inclined to look for a resounding CU win.

The wild-card is the Turgeon-Boyle relationship.  Theoretically, the teacher should always one-up the student in the first meeting, and both men have said that the game will be very emotional for the two of them. 

In the end, I'll lean on home court advantage and say that CU gets the job done.  They damn well better, because time is running out.  CU 78 - A&M 69


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