Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor Bears Takes on the Texas A&M Aggies

The Baylor Bears travel south on Highway 6 to take on old friend Texas A&M. It is the second meeting for the Bears and Aggies since their split apart in conference realignment.

The 16th ranked Baylor Bears go on the road to face off against 24th ranked Texas A&M in a matchup of old conference rivals.  Baylor (7-1) is looking to continue their dominance over the SEC the past few years, winning their past 7 games against the conference. They have two wins over Kentucky, 2 over Vanderbilt, 2 over South Carolina, and a win over this A&M squad last year. In fact, Baylor was 3-0 against the SEC in 2014-15, and already owns one win this year over Vanderbilt.  

Texas A&M comes into the game on the fringes of the Top-25 in both polls.  They are 24th in both the AP and Coaches poll after losses to Syracuse and Arizona State in the past few weeks.  A 6-0 start, highlighted by an upset win over ranked Gonzaga catapulted the Aggies into the Top-20.  

This is Billy Kennedy's 5th season in College Station, a tenure that surprised me. HIs teams have been hovering around average before a semi-breakthrough last year got them to 20 wins and the NIT.  His tenure was preceeded by a stretch of 6-straight trips to the NCAA tournament, but he has yet to lead the Aggies to the big postseason prize.  This year seems to be different, and it started with an elite recruiting class.  They secured the 8th strongest recruiting class in the nation, led by Top-40 recruits DJ Hogg and Tyler Davis.  

Davis is the bigger name, and has shown the bigger impact on the court.  The Aggies starting center, Davis is averaging 11 pointsand 6 rebounds a game, and giving them some much needed size in the paint. At 6-foot-10, 265 pounds, Davis' bulk is a tremendous compliment to 6-foot-7 forwards Jalen Jones and Danuel House.  

Media Information

No. 16 Baylor (7-1, 0-0) vs. No. 24 Texas A&M (8-2, 0-0)

Date

Dec. 19 | 8:00 p.m. CT

Location

College Station, TX

TV

ESPNU

Radio

ESPN Central Texas

Online Audio

Listen Online

Live Stats

Gametracker

Twitter @BaylorMBB

Keys to the Game

1. Make the Aggie Guards Beat You - The strength of the Texas A&M basketball team is on the wings and in the post.  Forwards Danuel House, Jaylon Jones and center Tyler Davis are the top 3-scorers for the Aggies and their best playmakers.  Both of the starting guards for A&M, Alex Casuso and Anthony Collins, are 7th and 8th on the team in points.  They are both defensive first players, and both are pass first offensive threats.  Collins is a good three-point shooter, making over 53% of his attempts, but only takes 1.3 per game.  

Caruso is not a shooter at all, shooting 27.8% from 3-point range. However, he shoots 60% from inside the arc with a nice array of mid-range jumpers and is solid at getting to the rim, with 45% of all of his shots taking place at the bucket. Caruso, Collins, freshman Admon Gilder play almost all of the minutes at eithr guard position, with Danuel House sliding up to the shooting guard spot in some ultra-big lineups.  Keeping Caruso out of the lane, and staying with Collins and Gilder and taking away open 3-pointers is the key to slowing them down. 

2. Limit the House Party - Danuel House is an emerging star. The second year aggie, and former Houston Cougar, is averaging a career high in points, assists and close to a career high in rebounds. He has improved over his 4-year career considerably, even with a 5-star recruit background.  He is a tough covera t 6-foot-7, able to slide between the small forward and shooting guard position (as well as play small-ball power forward).  He is a lot like Taurean Prince, just a little smaller.  

With the Aggies, he has become a long-range weapon, almost doubling his 3-pointers attempted per game from 4.4 his last year in Houston, to 7.1 attempts this year.  He shot 40% from deep in 26 games last year, but is only shooting 31% so far in 2015-16.  He is a catch and shoot wpeaon from deep, and with a legitimate post threat in Tyler Davis, House has seen that part of his game increase.  Over 81% of his 3-pointers are assisted, with 57% of all of his shots coming from deep.  

He is good at getting to the rim, though he has not done that very often this year.  With the Bears switching defenses much more this season, how they defend House will be quite different. In their zone defense, they will have to make sure to stay with him and challenge those long shots.  In a man-defense, staying in front of him and keeping him out of the paint (especially when the Bears don't have Jonathan Motley, their one rim protector, in the game) and away from the rim will be key. 

In the the Aggies only two Top-50 wins of the year (Texas and Gonazaga) House has scored 19 points in each game, gotten to the line effectively (18 combined FTA), and shot the ball well (12-23 shooting, 4-11 from 3-point range).  He is their best player and someone the Bears will have to focus on. 

3. Force Turnovers - The Aggies are averaging a turnover on 19.5% of their possessions, so one of out 5 times they have the ball, they give it right back.  That is 222nd in the nation, and higher than the national rate of 18.7%.  Alex Caruso is the biggest culprit, turning it over on 30% of his possessions, an aboslutely ridiculous rate for a point guard. Luckily for the Bears, their point guard happens to be one of the best thiefs in college basketball, having the 12th highest indicidual steal rate in the nation.  This is a huge matchup edge for the Bears.  The Aggies like to get out and run quite a bit more than the Bears (they average around 5 possessions more per game), and that is a big part of their turnover woes.

Lester Medford has been excellent all year with his defense, especially jumping passing lanes and getting the ball in the open court.  Look for Medford to be very aggressive against such a willing giver of turnovers like Alex Caruso.  

What Happened Last Time?

In December of last year, the Aggies visited Waco as an improving team under Billy Kennedy. However, the Bears simply were too much for the young Aggies, especially on the glass.  Texas A&M secured just a single offensive rebound, while Baylor out-rebounded the Aggies 38-18 overall.  It was a dominant performance from Rico Gatyhers, who finished with 10 rebounds.  Jonathan Motley had one of the best games of his career with 22 points and 11 rebounds.  Baylor outscored Texas A&M by 19 points in the middle 20-minutes of the game to build an insurmountable lead and coast to an easy win.

Predictions

KenPom.com – Texas A&M Wins 71-70 (47% chance for Baylor win)

Massey.com – Texas A&M Wins 69-68 (47% chance for Baylor win)

Tim Watkins BearsIllustrated.com Writer– Bears win 65-61

There are two big reasons why I think the Bears will get a big win away from Waco over an SEC opponent for the 3rd straight year.  The college game is still one decided by guard play, and the Bears have a much better point guard in Lester Medford.  He does the things that Alex Caruso struggles the most with, and should be able to use his speed to make it very difficult for him.  

Secondly, the Bears have multiple players to throw at Danuel House in Ish wainright and Taurean Prince. Both are very strong defenders, in man or zone, and should be able to limit House, or at least make it more difficult. 

With those two big edges, the Bears defense will carry them to a tough victory where they win the battle of tempo, slow down the Aggies and limit their 3-point shooting. 


Bears Illustrated Top Stories