Texas A&M (11-7, 2-4) enters Allen Fieldhouse tonight with the desire to get its season back on track. Huge preseason expectations have not been realized, but a victory against the Jayhawks (16-3, 6-0) would go a long way to jump start a team in need of something good to happen.
Head Coach Billy Kennedy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease earlier this year and he has had to miss a lot of time with the team. Kennedy is in his first year in College Station after former Kansas guard, Mark Turgeon, left the Aggies for Maryland. Even with a new coach, most pundits looked at the returning talent for A&M and thought they would compete for a Big XII title this year.
Instead, the Aggies will need to put together a run in Big XII play just to make the NCAA tournament (for the 7th straight year).
It will be a match-up of defensive-minded teams tonight. Texas A&M gives up an average of 59.2 points, while Kansas is a close-second in the Big XII at 60.4 per game. The Aggies, however, have a difficult time scoring the basketball and will have to make shots to hang with Kansas.
One of the Aggies’ best players, Khris Middleton, may not dress for the game. His presence would be missed, but the Aggies were able to pull off an overtime win against Oklahoma on Saturday without him much of the game. Kennedy will rely heavily on guard Elston Turner, who is averaging close to 14 points this season. He’ll also call on his defensive stopper, guard Dash Harris, to try to keep Tyshawn Taylor out of the lane.
This will be the Aggies’ last game in Allen Fieldhouse before moving to the SEC. Kansas will be hoping to send A&M home with its 18th loss in the last 19 meetings against the Jayhawks.
Matchup of the game:
Dash Harris vs. Tyshawn Taylor
Keys to the game for Kansas:
- Take care of the basketball. Kansas has more talent and the home crowd. The Aggies struggle to score, so the last thing Kansas can do is give them free baskets in transition off of turnovers.
- Pound the ball inside. Recently, the Jayhawks have been playing better basketball. Over the last nine games, there has been a much stronger devotion to getting in the paint — either through an entry pass or penetration — and less of a reliance on three-point shooting. This needs to continue tonight against the Aggies.
- Don’t let the Aggies think there is a chance. Get up early and stay up. Kansas doesn’t need to give up any more 15-point leads.
Keys to the game for Texas A&M:
- Control the clock. The Aggies won’t hang 80 on Kansas. They may not hang 65. In order to win, Kennedy will have his team slow the pace, take good shots late in the shot clock, and defend the heck out of the half court.
- Make shots. Let’s be honest. Teams that have won in Allen Fieldhouse usually make a high percentage of three-point shots. Nothing quiets the crowd faster than a barrage of threes.
- Most of these guys are Juniors and Seniors. They won’t be taken aback by the home crowd. However, mistakes tend to compound if made early. A&M will need to get through the first ten minutes of the game and stay within 5 or 6 to have a chance.
Kansas -18.5; 126 O/U
KU 78, A&M 62