Kansas to face Texas A&M on Thursday

Texas A&M may not have played a particularly elegant brand of basketball Wednesday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., but nobody ever said a win had to be pretty. The Aggies opened the Big 12 Tournament by defeating the Oklahoma Sooners 62-53, avenging a loss in the regular season finale and earning the right to face top-seeded Kansas in Thursday's quarterfinals.

Here's our quick analysis of Thursday's quarterfinal match-up of Kansas and Texas A&M:

How the Aggies advanced - In a word, laboriously. They held Oklahoma at bay during the second half Wednesday's game, despite shooting just 38.2-percent from the field and 33.3-percent from beyond the arc, on the strength of strong rebounding and a solid defensive performance. Texas A&M out-rebounded Oklahoma 36-26, and held the Sooners to below 40-percent from the field (including a positively frosty 18.2-percent from three-point range).

How Kansas will win - Honestly? By just playing their game. The Jayhawks are one of the top defensive teams in the country, will be playing in front of an unquestionably partisan crowd, and have Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor rolling. The last time these two teams met, a 66-58 victory for Kansas in College Station, Texas on Feb. 22, Elijah Johnson went for 21 - 18 in the first half. Getting him rolling early would give the Jayhawks that extra edge.

Wednesday night, the Aggies dealt the bulk of their damage in the paint, with forwards David Loubeau, Khris Middleton and Ray Turner combining for 42 points. Middleton is one of the more talented players in the Big 12 when healthy - which he is - and a versatile scoring threat.

If Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Withey can mitigate that, and control the paint as he's done all season, with Robinson and Taylor continuing their strong play, Kansas should advance to Friday's semi-final to take on the winner of Baylor versus Kansas State.

How the Aggies have a shot - Though they're 0-2 versus the Jayhawks this season, Texas A&M hasn't exactly rolled over in either game. In the late February contest in College Station, Kansas was up by 20 points in the second half before Texas A&M clawed its way back to within single digits and striking distance - though the comeback attempt ultimately felt flat.

And the Aggies do have some weapons in the post. Loubeau is a crafty veteran and Middleton is exceedingly dangerous when he's playing to his potential. The Kansas bench is about as deep as a kiddie pool, so if they can force the ball inside and get Withey and Robinson in foul trouble early, their chances of victory increase dramatically.

Head Coach Billy Kennedy will try his best to take the air out of the ball as well. Wednesday, Texas A&M frequently moved the ball in the half court until the shot clock was well under 10 seconds, in an effort to limit shot attempts and muddy things up. There's little more frustrating than playing strong defense for 30 seconds only to have an opponent score a bucket just as the shot clock is beginning to sound.

Kansas will apply a ton of defensive pressure with their superior athleticism and size, but if the Aggies stay focused and disciplined, making the Jayhawks play defense every second of every possession, they can put themselves in great position.

Prediction - Kansas hasn't exactly come roaring out of the gates in their first Big 12 Tournament action in recent years, but they almost always find a way to come out on top. They know the Aggies, having defeated them twice during the regular season, and are playing excellent team basketball at exactly the right time.

Kansas 65, Texas A&M 53

Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.


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