When Missouri fell to Baylor on Saturday, it in essence left the Kansas Jayhawks with two remaining competitors for the Big 12 regular season title. It just so happens to be that it is one of those two teams that they play in their next game, which is great, because you always want to be able to "control your own destiny," just like they were fortunate enough to do last year. Although, remember that Kansas didn't play that clinching game until game number sixteen of the conference slate, at home to Texas on the last day of the regular season. Well, the Jayhawks can move one giant step closer to that moment for the 2010 season with a win on the road in College Station, Tx. come Monday night.
A win at Texas A&M would do the following to the Big 12 race:
- move the Jayhawks to 11-0 in conference play
- drop the Aggies to 7-4, four games back of Kansas
- leave only Kansas State within three games (it would be three and a half until they play Wednesday night at Nebraska) and striking distance of the Jayhawks
As far as Kansas State is concerned, they have weaved their way through the most treacherous part of their conference schedule, so one would assume it would be smooth sailing until the March 3 showdown in Allen Fieldhouse. Meaning that they could realistically go into that game 11-3. But, by that time, Kansas could be 14-0 and it would be all over. The magic number currently stands at four. A combination of four Kansas wins and Kansas State and Texas A&M losses to outright clinch the regular season title. So, that's that.
A&M has come on hot of late, winning four straight over the likes of Texas Tech, (twice) Missouri (in Columbia to snap their home winning streak) and Baylor. That's a fairly tough stretch of schedule, all things considered with how the Big 12 is shaking out in reality. Missouri and Baylor are muddled in with A&M and Texas for the third spot in the conference. Kansas and Kansas State look in good position for a 1-2 finish, so the frantic finish to the season will likely be for the third spot and fourth spots, resulting in a first round Big 12 tournament bye. So, this game will mean a whole lot to them, besides the standard hosting of the number one team in the nation.
A&M, as most Big 12 teams are, are very good at home. (13-0) It has been three years since A&M got their last (and only ever) victory against the Jayhawks. I'm sure you remember - Acie Law IV - ouch. Anyway, who would have thought that was the only time they've ever beaten Kansas? It seems like their program has been on the rise for a few years now and that they have been a worthy adversary for a while. But, only that one win to show for it. The Jayhawks have thirteen, by the way.
If you can run against Texas A&M, you definitely want to do it. The Aggies only run about four guards onto the court in a given game, so if you can force them to run a bit, they will wear down enough to the point to hopefully make some mistakes or affect their play. At the beginning of the season, they have a very nice stable of guards, until a gruesome leg injury (WARNING: video is not for the weak hearted) claimed the season and career of senior Derrick Roland. Team leader Donald Sloan is about as consistent of a scorer as they come - he doesn't just average 18.3 points per game; he gives you that every single game. However, for a guard who handles the ball a lot, he has more turnovers than assists on the season, so making him dribble the ball and make decisions would be a wise strategy. For as bad as Sloan can be at turning it over, sophomore guard Dash Harris is equally as good at not turning it over. The leading assist man, he boasts a two-to-one assist to turnover ratio. Don't expect much scoring out of Harris, but do look for good defense to be played all night long. If the Jayhawks get down late and need a ball handler to foul, make sure it's Harris; he shoots only 47 percent on the year from the line.
Another plethera of big bodies to be used against the Jayhawk frontline. If Bryan Davis were three inches taller, he would be the defensive presence that Cole Aldrich is. He is big, strong and doesn't shy away from contesting a shot. In only 25 minutes played per game, he averages nearly eight rebounds and two blocks a game. If he were able to or called upon to play 30+ minutes a game, he would have some impressive numbers. Another bad free throw shooter, though. (55%) The other three regularly used bigs all average in the 20 minute per game range and provide a combined 20+ points per game - not bad to compliment Davis. Both Middleton and Walkup possess the ability to step out and guard the perimeter. Both also seem to think they are three point shooters, but neither do so particularly well - 24 and 28 percent, respectively. No one over 6'9" plays serious, regular minutes, so as usual, working the ball inside to Cole should be a mandatory every offensive possession.
Record: 18-6 (7-3)
Best Win(s): Clemson, @/vs. Texas Tech, @Missouri, Baylor
Worst Loss(es): @Washington, @Oklahoma State
Informative Texas A&M Links
Player rotation from their Yahoo! team page:
Player Rotation: Usual Starters—F Bryan Davis, F David Loubeau, F Khris Middleton, G Donald Sloan, G B.J. Holmes. Key Subs—G Dash Harris, F Nathan Walkup, F Ray Turner.
|Nebraska||@ W, 84-72 vs. W, 75-64||vs. W, 64-53|
|Texas Tech||vs. W, 89-63||vs. W, 85-70 @ W, 67-65|
|Baylor||vs. W, 81-75||vs. W, 78-71|
|MIssouri||vs. W, 84-65||@ W, 77-74|
|Kansas State||@ W, 81-79||@ L, 65-88|
|Colorado||@ W, 72-66||vs. W, 67-63|
|Texas||@ W, 80-68||@ L, 62-67|
Random Stat Musings about the Aggies
- As was touched upon a bit, they do not shoot free throws well. For a team that has taken the tenth most in the country, (28.8 per game) they don't take advantage of that, shooting only 65.2 percent as a team. (279th nationally)
- They get their shot blocked more than nearly 300 other teams in the country - four times per game, or 7.5 percent of their shots - one in every thirteen. Perhaps the lack of elite size?
- They are in the lower half nationally in three point percentage and free throw percentage, while just on the top side in field goal percentage.
- Points per possession: Texas A&M - 1.08, Kansas - 1.18. Times that by 70 possessions a game and that makes for a wide gap.