Game Preview: Arizona faces Texas A&M

While the attention fully turns to the Arizona men's basketball season, the Wildcats continue their non conference schedule with a very difficult matchup with the 9th ranked Texas A&M Aggies. This is the second and final game for Arizona in the first ever Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.

Just a week ago, the Wildcats lost to another Big 12 opponent, the Kansas Jayhawks, and are looking to continually improve off that loss with every ensuing game.

The Wildcats arguably face the Big 12's two best teams, so this is just another game on the Wildcats brutal schedule that should prove to be one that provides people with a lot answers to numerous questions. Arizona is still in search of their first quality win of the season. They've suffered close defeats to Virginia and Kansas, but could use a win against a team of A&M's caliber to improve their stock as a basketball team.

Texas A&M is under new direction in 2007-08 with Mark Turgeon leading the way. However, that hasn't stalled the Aggies in any way as they've gotten off to another great start at 7-0. A&M is beating their opponents by an average of 17 points per game. Despite losing defensive minded coach Billy Gillespie to Kentucky, the Aggies are still a defensive oriented basketball team. Only once so far this season have the Aggies allowed an opponent to score in the 70's.

The Aggies have seven players that average 20 minutes or more, led by 6'7 junior swingman Josh Carter. Carter is averaging a team high 13 points per game, while grabbing 4.3 rebounds per game. A&M is also led by two productive big men in senior Joseph Jones & freshman phenom DeAndre Jordan. Jones, a consensus pre-season first team All Big-12 pick, has been a huge part of the Aggies basketball program over the last four years. Jones has made a total of 102 career starts in his career at A&M. Jones is averaging 11.3 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game on the year while shooting a very good 52% from the floor.

Freshman DeAndre Jordan has been fantastic for the Aggies in their first seven games of the season. Jordan is the Aggies leading rebounder with 7.4 per game, and is also averaging 9.1 points per game. However, the most staggering statistic of Jordan's is the fact that he's shooting 83% from the floor. However, on the flipside of that, Jordan is shooting a horrendous 16% from the free throw line in 24 attempts. If there's one weakness to Jordan's game, it's the fact that he struggles mightily from the free throw line.

A&M also has a quality back court, led by senior Dominique Kirk and sophomore Donald Sloan. Derrick Roland, sophomore, also sees plenty of minutes in the backcourt for Mark Turgeon and the Aggies of Texas A&M.

Like Kansas, Texas A&M poses a threat to Arizona in the front court. While Kansas outscored the Wildcats in the pain in their matchup a week ago, the Wildcats still managed to outrebound the Jayhawks, despite not having near the front court talent that Kansas possessed. Like their game against Kansas, interim head coach Kevin O'Neill has his hands full in trying to neutralize the front court of the Aggies.

However, like always, that starts with Jordan Hill's ability to stay out of foul trouble. In their game versus Kansas, Hill picked up two quick fouls and had to sit on the bench for the remainder of the first half. For Arizona to be successful against A&M's front court, Hill needs to stay out of foul trouble. He'll also need help from seniors Kirk Walters and Bret Brielmaier, along with freshman Jamelle Horne. As a whole, Arizona's front court did a relatively successful job against Kansas's front court; that'll have to be the case again in order for Arizona to contend with the Aggies and their physical front line.

While the Aggies have the advantage in the front court, Arizona should pose problems for A&M in the back court. Led by freshman Jerryd Bayless, the Wildcats should be able to increase the tempo of tonight's game in order to neutralize A&M's advantage in the front court. Bayless will need help from sophomore Chase Budinger, along with guys like Jawann McClellan, Nic Wise, Daniel Dillon, and Laval Lucas-Perry.

A lot has been made about Arizona's quality non conference schedule, but as the season progresses, they are quickly beginning to run out of opportunities for a quality win on their resume. While tonight's game proves to be a difficult one for Arizona, they still have the opportunity to achieve that quality win by defeating the Aggies from Texas A&M. Tonight's game should prove to be no easier than what the Wildcats have faced up until this point in the season.

Arizona is 3-17 in their last 20 games versus top 25 opponents; the Wildcats will be looking to improve that number tonight as they face a very formidable opponent in Texas A&M.

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