The Aggies are on a three-game winning streak after a 60-52 win over Oklahoma on Saturday, rallying from a six-point halftime deficit.
After wins over Texas and Oklahoma last week, A&M climbed from No. 23 five spots to No. 18 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll and the AP poll this week. The Aggies have been ranked in both polls a school record 34 straight weeks.
Iowa State fought hard on the road at Nebraska on Saturday but could not overcome 20 turnovers in a 64-56 loss at Nebraska. Iowa State committed 10 turnovers in each half, halting any chances for victory.
Iowa State is 11-2 at home, including 3-0 in Big 12 play, and have won nine straight home games.
The Cyclones have lost three of their last four games and has scored under 60 points in these four games.
Greg McDermott is in his second year as head coach at Iowa State, having been announced as head coach on Mar 21st, 2006.
In the five years prior to taking the Iowa State job, McDermott compiled a 90-63 record as head coach at Northern Iowa, leading Northern Iowa to three straight NCAA tourney appearances (2004-2006).
McDermott faced the daunting task of competing in his initial season with just four returning scholarship players and nine scholarship athletes. After being picked for 11th in the preseason Big 12 poll, McDermott and his staff led the overachieving Cyclones to a tie for seventh in the league, finishing 15-16 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12.
McDermott and Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon have faced each other many times. Turgeon was the head coach at Wichita State from 2001-07, facing McDermott a number of times when he was head coach at Northern Iowa. McDermott is 7-4 all-time against Turgeon-coached teams.
Iowa State is a fairly young team, starting two or three freshmen.
The Cyclones are led by sophomore forward Wesley Johnson (6-7, 210), who is averaging 13.9 points and 3.6 rebounds a game this season, averaging 19.2 points in his first five Big 12 games.
As a freshman, Johnson started 30 of 31 games and was named to the Big 12 all-Rookie team and earned honorable mention freshman All-America honors, after averaging 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds.
Johnson missed the first four games of the season with a bone bruise in his left foot. Johnson left midway through the first half of the Colorado game on Jan 29th, appearing to reaggravate that injury when he came down on a Colorado player's foot.
Johnson did not play in the Nebraska game. Starting in in Johnson's place on Saturday was their usual sixth man, freshman guard Diante Garrett (6-4, 170), who has averaged 5.9 points and 2.5 assists in 21 minutes a game.
Johnson is now listed as day-to-day and it is not clear whether Johnson will play in the game with Texas A&M.
Other projected starters for Iowa State are:
Freshman forward Craig Brackins (6-10, 220) - averaging 12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 blocks in 29 minutes a game.
Senior center Jiri Hubalek (6-11, 225) - averaging 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 23 minutes a game.
Senior forward Rahshon Clark (6-6, 200) - averaging 9.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 31 minutes a game.
Freshman guard Bryan Petersen (6-1, 175) - averaging 5.1 points and 3.3 assists in 27 minutes a game.
The other two Cyclones expected to see significant playing time are freshman guard Sean Haluska (6-3, 195) and junior forward Alex Thompson (6-10, 230). Both are averaging about 3 points and 2 rebounds a game.
Texas A&M is expected to start the same lineup as it has for its last five games: junior forward Josh Carter (6-7, 200), senior forward Joseph Jones (6-9, 255), sophomore guard Donald Sloan (6-3, 205), senior guard Dominique Kirk (6-4, 185), and sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250).
Josh Carter leads the Aggies in scoring with 13.4 points a game and has scored in double figures in 15 of the last 16 games. Carter has hit 50 three-pointers and ranks second in career three-point accuracy in Big 12 history at 43.2 percent. In last Wednesday big win over Texas, Carter led the Aggies with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Joseph Jones is averaging 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. Jones was named MVP of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season-Tip-Off in November and scored a season-high 18 points with 6 rebounds in the win over Oklahoma. Jones ranks among the school’s career top 10 in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, field goal percentage, steals, free throws and free throw attempts.
Donald Sloan is averaging 9.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists a game, and has averaged 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the last four games.
Dominique Kirk is averaging 8.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4 assists a game. Kirk owns the Big 12 record for consecutive starts with 118 and was a defensive All-American last year.
Bryan Davis has started the last five games for the Aggies and is averaging 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. Davis posted career highs in rebounding (30) and rebounding (14) against Baylor for his first career-double-double. Davis scored 13 points with a team-high 8 rebounds in saturday's win over Oklahoma. Davis leads the team in blocks (28) and steals (21) and is third in rebounding (4.8). He is making .610 from the field in Big 12 play.
Jordan started the first 17 games of the season and is now averaging 9.1 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, while Roland is averaging 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds. Jordan, a preseason freshman All-America pick, ranks fifth nationally in field goal percentage (.672).
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). Holmes has made 5-of-9 (.556) from three-point range in Big 12 play.
The Aggies are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, ranking fourth nationally and first in the Big 12 in rebounding margin at +9.2.
Texas A&M ranks second in the Big 12 and eighth nationally in field goal percentage, connecting on 49.0 percent of its shots from the floor.
To get a better feel for the Aggie - Cyclone matchup, Iowa State is rated No. 114 (of 341) in Jeff Sagarin's Basketball Ratings.
Texas A&M saw their Sagarin rating drop from No. 17 to No. 36 after the Tech, K-State, and Baylor losses, and now back to No. 22 after the Oklahoma State, Texas, and Oklahoma wins.
Iowa State has not beaten anyone rated higher than No. 43. The Cyclones have lost to teams rated, No. 73, No. 104, and No. 110. It is clear Iowa State plays much better at home than on the road.
Texas A&M's most impressive wins have been Wednesday night's 17-point win over Texas (Sagarin No. 17), its 23-point win over Ohio St (No. 29), Saturday's 8-point win over Oklahoma (No. 30), and its 14-point win over Washington (No. 83). A&M's four losses have been by 11 points to Arizona (No. 15), by 15 points to Texas Tech (No. 71), by 21 points to Kansas State (No. 25), and the 5-overtime loss to Baylor (No. 35). Other than Texas Tech (No. 71), the Aggies have not lost to anyone rated worse than No. 35.
Texas A&M and Iowa State have faced five common opponents - Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Colorado.
The Aggies and Cyclones have had similar results in their wins over Oklahoma State and Colorado, and in losses to Kansas State and Baylor. A&M beat Alabama by 13 points at home while Iowa State lost on the road to Alabama by 15 points.
Both the Sagarin analysis and the common opponent analysis would give an edge to the Aggies in this game.
Iowa State leads the series, 7-5, with a 3-2 edge in games played in Ames. A &M has won three straight against the Cyclones and two of the last three at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State’s last win in the series was in Ames in 2004 (91-82). In the Aggies’ five previous trips to Ames, every game has been decided by single-digit margins. A&M won two years ago in Ames, 86-81, in overtime. A&M’s only other win in Ames came in 2002 (52-50).
Despite three straight wins over Oklahoma St, Texas, and Oklahoma, it is clear the Aggies still have work to do to regain some national basketball respect after the three-game losing streak.
In the latest ESPN Bubble Watch, Andy Glockner says Kansas and Texas are Locks, and says Oklahoma and Kansas St Should Be In, while he says Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech have Work Left To Do.
I think the wins over Texas and Oklahoma should have pushed the Aggies into the Should Be In group, but the losses to Baylor and Tech, and lack of a quality road win, really hurt.
The Aggies just cannot afford a loss to a team of Iowa State' s ranking if they expect to be playing in the NCAA tourney.
The Aggies really need to win 5 out of the next 6 to consolidate their position, before going on the road to face Oklahoma and Baylor, and closing out hosting Kansas.
It starts Tuesday night in Ames, Iowa.
There are no easy games on the road in the Big 12, but the Aggies should win this game by at least 6 points.