No. 18-ranked Texas A&M (15-3, 1-2) looks to rebound from a disasterous week on the road when they return to Reed Arena to face the No. 25-ranked Baylor Bears (15-2, 3-0). Guard Henry Dugat (left) leads a balanced Baylor attack. Tony Hooten provides an indepth preview of the Aggie-Wildcats clash.
Baylor is coming off a 72-70 road win over Nebraska on Saturday, has won four straight, and is a perfect 3-0 in Big 12 play.
Junior guards Henry Dugat and Curtis Jerrells lead an extremely balanced Baylor Bear attack, The Bears have six players averaging between 9 and 13 points a game. The Bears start 3 guards and get most of their scoring from the guard position.
Henry Dugat (6-0, 170) is averaging 25 minutes, 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists a game. Dugat has been the leading scorer for Baylor is their last two wins, with 19 points against Nebraska and 23 points against Oklahoma State.
Curtis Jerrells (6-1, 205) is averaging 29 minutes, 13.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists a game.
The other three projected starters for Baylor are junior forward Kevin Rogers (6-9, 240), senior guard Aaron Bruce (6-3, 185), and sophomore center Josh Lomers (7-0, 265). Kevin Rogers is the best of the Bear big men, averaging 25 minutes, 11.9 points, and 6.8 rebounds a game. Aaron Bruce is averaging 24 minutes, 10.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists a game. Josh Lomers fills the middle but produces little on offense, averaging 15 minutes, 4.4 points, and 2.5 rebounds a game.
Baylor has two very productive guards coming off the bench in freshman LaceDarius Dunn (6-4, 200) and sophomore Tweety Carter (5-10, 185). Dunn is averaging 20 minutes, 12.3 points, and 4.1 rebounds a game, while Carter is averaging 23 minutes, 9.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game.
Coming off the bench to spell Rogers and Lomers are junior center Mamadou Diene (7-0, 250) and senior forward Mark Shepherd (6-9, 225). Diene is averaging 15 minutes, 2.5 points, and 3.5 rebounds a game, while Shepherd is averaging 13 minutes, 1.9 points, and 1.9 rebounds a game.
To get a better feel for just how good Baylor is, the Bears are rated No. 29 (of 341) in Jeff Sagarin's Basketball Ratings, one spot below No. 28 Texas A&M.
Baylor's most impressive wins this season have been a 68-64 win on the road over Notre Dame (No. 30), last Saturday's 72-70 win on the road over Nebraska (No. 90), and a 92-84 win on the road over South Carolina (No. 91).
Detect a pattern ? This Baylor team has proved they can win tough games on the road.
Baylor's only two losses have been a 67-64 loss to No. 6 Washington State and an 85-78 loss to Arkansas (No. 50). Baylor actually led Washington State by 12 at the half and led most of the game before falling in the final minutes.
By contrast, Texas A&M has seen their Sagarin rating drop from No. 17 to No. 28 as a result of the Tech and Kansas State losses.
Texas A&M's most impressive wins have been its 23-point win over Ohio St (No. 26) and its 14-point win over Washington (No. 71). A&M's three losses have been by 11 points to Arizona (No. 23) and by 15 points to Texas Tech (No. 81), and by 21 points to Kansas State (No. 37).
The one common opponent, Florida A&M, the Aggies beat by 29 points at home, while Kansas State won by 23 points at home.
Texas A&M is expected to start the same lineup as it has for all 17 of its 18 games: junior forward Josh Carter (6-7, 200), senior forward Joseph Jones (6-9, 255), freshman center DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 260), sophomore guard Donald Sloan (6-3, 205) and senior guard Dominique Kirk (6-4, 185).
Carter leads the Aggies in scoring with 13.4 points a game and has hit 43 three-pointers. Jones is averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds a game. True freshman Jordan is averaging over 10 points and 7 rebounds a game. Sloan and Kirk are each averaging about 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists a game.
With the Aggie winning margin over 16 games over 20 points prior to the Tech and K-State losses, the Aggie starters have only averaged about 25 minutes a game.
First off the bench amd averaging over 20 minutes a game have been sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250) and sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6-4, 190). Davis is averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds a game, while Roland is averaging 7 points and 3 rebounds.
Davis got his first start of the year against Kansas State, replacing DeAndre Jordan, but only had 4 points and 1 rebound. Davis appears to be more productive coming off the bench, so we expect to see Jordan back in the starting lineup.
Other Aggies who have seen significant playing time are sophomore forward Chinemelu Elonu (6-10, 235), true freshman guard B.J. Holmes (6-0, 175), true freshman forward Nathan Walkup (6-6, 195), and senior guard Beau Muhlbach (6-5, 205).
Baylor's strength is their back court and Sloan and Kirk are going to step up their game to keep pace with the Bears.
The Aggies will need their inside depth of Joseph Jones, DeAndre Jordan, Bryan Davis, and Chinemelu Elonu to take advantage of what should be a significant Aggie advantage on the inside.
The Aggies will be glad to return to the friendly confines of Reed Arena.
But following consecutive Big 12 blowout losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State, the Aggies will have to overcome lots of self-doubt and prove they can play a complete game against a high quality opponent, even at home.
It's now been two months since the Aggies played a complete game against a high quality opponent, Ohio State.
This is a critical game for the Aggies and will project what kind of season the Aggies will have.
The heart says A&M but the head says Baylor has the edge in this game.
This game is a pick'em with only the Aggies home court advantage tilting this game the Aggies way.
I hope the Aggies find their heart and focus, and right the ship before the play we saw last week becomes the norm.
I expect this game to be a nail-biter and be decided in the final minute.