Aggies host No 5 Kansas in Big 12 finale

The Texas A&M Aggies (22-8, 8-7 Big 12) host the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks (27-3, 12-3 Big 12) in a Big 12 regular season finale at 3 p.m. at Reed Arena. Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur (left) leads a balanced Kansas attack. Tony Hooten provides an indepth preview of the Aggie-Jayhawk clash and why the Aggies have a better chance to upset the Jayhawks than many think.

The Texas A&M Aggies (22-8, 8-7 Big 12) host the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks (27-3, 12-3 Big 12) in a Big 12 regular season finale at 3 p.m. at Reed Arena.

The game will be televised nationally on CBS.

Texas A&M is 22-8 on the season and has won two of its last three games, after its 71-57 avenging win against Baylor Wednesday. The Aggies will be looking for an upset win over Kansas to lock up a return invite to the NCAA tourney.

Kansas already has its invite to the NCAA tourney secured but will be playing for at least a share of the the Big 12 regular season championship. Kansas enters the weekend with a 27-3 overall and 12-3 Big 12 record and is tied with Texas for first place in the conference standings.

The Jayhawks have won 50 league titles, including the last three and seven of the 11 Big 12 championships.

Kansas is coming off the widest victory margin in Big 12 history with a 109-51 win against Texas Tech last Monday. For the game, 15 of the 16 Jayhawks who played scored, including six players in double figures.

Kansas and Texas A&M are meeting for the 12th time in a series that dates back to 1967. Kansas leads the overall series 11-1 but Texas A&M won a colossal battle last season, 69-66, in Lawrence.

The Jayhawks are 4-0 in Reed Arena and 5-0 in College Station.

Kansas' three losses have been by a combined 13 points - 9 at Kansas State, 3 at Texas and 1 at Oklahoma State.

Kansas leads the nation in scoring margin at +21.1. Besides scoring margin, Kansas leads the Big 12 in scoring (82.5), field goal percentage (50.6), three-point field goal percentage (.393), field goal percentage defense (.381), rebound defense (31.2), assists (18.8), blocked shots (6.27), steals (9.07) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.44).

The Jayhawks have held 29 of 30 opponents to less than 50 percent shooting and 101 of its last 104 opponents.

Kansas has a very balanced offensive attack and deep bench, with four players averaging between 12 and 13.3 points a game.

Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur (6-9, 225) (pictured above) leads Kansas in scoring with 13.3 points per game. He is second on the team with 6.0 rebounds per contest and leads KU with 43 blocked shots. Arthur had nine rebounds against Texas Tech and is averaging eight boards in his last three games. Arthur posted his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds at Iowa State. He has pulled down at least six rebounds in six of his last eight games and seven or more 11 times this year. He has four 20-point efforts on the season. Arthur is 23-for-30 (76.7 percent) from the free throw line in his last nine games. Arthur averages 1.43 blocked shots a game and has 12 games with multiple blocked shots this season, including five in conference action.

Junior guard Brandon Rush (6-6, 210) is averaging at 12.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. Rush leads the team with 56 three-point field goals and is shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc. Rush has pulled down six or more rebounds in seven of his last 11 games. In Big 12 play he is scoring a team-high 13.7 ppg and his three-point shooting has also improved in conference play, making 44.7 percent from the beyond the arc through 15 league games.

Junior guard Mario Chalmers (6-1, 190) is scoring 12 points per game and is second on the team with 49 three pointers. Chalmers leads the Big 12 in steals at 2.34 per game, is second in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.50, and second in assists at 4.66. Chalmers has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games. He is 15-for-17 from the free throw line in his last six games. He has multiple steals in each of his last three games and five of his last seven contests. He has four steals in six games this season.

Senior forward Darnell Jackson (6-8, 250) is scoring 12.2 points per game and leads Kansas in rebounding at 6.9 per contest. Jackson is averaging 8.3 rebounds in his last four games. He is shooting 66.7 percent (8-for-12) in his last two games. He has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games. He has reached double digits 20 times this season. Jackson has pulled down eight or more rebounds in nine Big 12 contests and 17 times this season. He has two double-doubles (16 points, 10 rebounds at Oklahoma State and 21 points, 11 rebounds vs. Iowa State). Jackson is 29-for-35 (82.9 percent) from the free throw line since the second half of the Kansas State game on Jan. 30.

Senior guard Russell Robinson (6-1, 205) is averaging 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds a game. Robinson has multiple steals in 19 contests this season. Robinson is third in the Big 12 in assists at 4.20, fourth in steals at 2.03 and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.05. Robinson was perfect against Texas Tech, going 5-for-5 (3-for-3 from three-point range) and 2-for-2 from the line scoring 15 points, his second most points in Big 12 play. He has six steals in his last two games, including four thefts against Kansas State (March 1). He pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds at Iowa State (Feb. 27). He has dished out five or more assists 10 times this season, including five in two of his last three games.

Coming off the bench are sophomore guard Sherron Collins (5-11, 205), senior center Sasha Kaun (6-11, 250), senior guard Rodrick Stewart (6-4, 200), and freshman center Cole Aldrich (6-11, 240). Collins is averaging 9.2 points a game, Kaun 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, Stewart and Aldrich 3 points apiece.

Through 30 games, Kansas has had seven different leading scorers, seven different players lead the team in rebounding, five different in assists, eight different in steals and seven different in blocked shots (these includes ties). KU has had five different leading scorers in the last five games - Robinson, Rush, Arthur, Jackson and Chalmers - and six different rebounders in the last five games - Aldrich, Kaun, Robinson, Arthur, Jackson and Rush (Robinson and Arthur each had 10 at Iowa State on Feb. 27).

Six Jayhawks have scored 20-plus points this season - Rush, Collins, Jackson, Chalmers, Arthur and Robinson.

Texas A&M is expected to start the same lineup as it did for the Baylor game: 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 freshman center DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 260).

Josh Carter leads the Aggies in scoring with 12.7 points and 4.2 rebounds a game and has scored in double figures in 20 of the last 24 games. Carter has hit 64 three-pointers this season and ranks fifth in career three-point accuracy in Big 12 history at 42.7 percent. In A&M's big win over Texas in January, Carter led the Aggies with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Carter had 17 points and 6 rebounds in Wednesday's win over Baylor.

Joseph Jones is averaging 10.7 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. Jones was named MVP of the NIT Season-Tip-Off in November and scored a season-high 18 points with 6 rebounds in the win last month 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. Jones has scored in double figures in 22 games and tied his season-best with 9 rebounds against Missouri.

Donald Sloan is averaging 9.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists a game. Sloan scored a career-high 21 points with 5 assists and 5 rebounds against Missouri and has made 28 of his last 30 free throws. Sloan scored 17 points and snagged 8 rebounds in Wednesday's win over Baylor.

Dominique Kirk is averaging 7.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists a game. Kirk owns the Big 12 record for consecutive starts with 125. A defensive All-American last year, Kirk’s primary defensive assignment in Big 12 play this year has made just 33 percent from the field.

DeAndre Jordan started the first 17 games of the season, and returned to the starting lineup in last Wednesday's win over Texas Tech. Jordan and is now averaging 8.9 points and 6.6 rebounds a game and ranks among the top 15 nationally in field goal percentage (.629, 160 FGA min.). Jordan had 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in Wednesday's win over Baylor.

First off the bench and averaging over 20 minutes a game will be sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250) and sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6-4, 190).

After coming off the bench the first 17 games of the season, Bryan Davis started the 10 games prior to Texas Tech. In 10 games as a starter, Davis ranked second on the team in scoring (11.5) and leads in rebounding (6.2). For the season, he leads the team steals (32), ranks second in blocks (33) and is third in rebounding (4.9). Davis posted career highs in rebounding (30) and rebounding (14) against Baylor for his first career-double-double. Davis picked up his second double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Missouri.

Beau Muhlbach has averaged 8.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in the last two games, averaging 15.5 minutes per game. He added a career-high 3 steals in the loss at Oklahoma.

Derrick Roland is averaging ed 5.9 points a game. He scored a team-high 13 points against Nebraska, making 3-of-5 from three-point range, and followed with 11 in the win against Tech.

Freshman guard Derrek Lewis (6-5, 195) came off the bench and played 17 minutes in A&M's win over Tech last Wednesday, based upon his strong defensive performance in practices earlier in the week..

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), and true freshman forward Nathan Walkup (6-6, 195).

With his deep Kansas ties, this will be a very emotional game for Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon.

Turgeon served as an assistant coach at Kansas for five seasons, first under Larry Brown (1987-88) and then under Roy Williams (1988-92). The Jayhawks made the NCAA Tournament four of those seasons, capturing the national championship in 1988 and finishing second in 1991. Kansas won back-to-back Big Eight Conference titles in 1991-92.

A point guard at Kansas from 1984-87, Turgeon was the first player in Jayhawks history to play in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, helping the team to a 108-33 record under Brown. Turgeon served as team captain in 1986 and 1987, leading the Jayhawks to the 1986 NCAA Final Four.

So what are the Aggies chances to upset Kansas ? Better than many might think.

In Jeff Sagarin's Basketball Ratings Kansas is rated No. 5 (92.95) while Texas A&M is rated No. 26 (85.62). The home advantage of 4.02 means on the surface Kansas would be favored in this game by 3.31 points. Other lines give the edge to Kansas by between 5 and 8 points.

However, a deeper analysis gives Aggie fans some reasons to believe A&M has a real shot to upset Kansas.

Kansas has only played two games against teams rated as high as A&M, USC and Texas, and is 1-1 in those games.

Kansas is 10-3 against Sagarin top 75 teams, but only 3-3 against top 75 teams on the road, and has lost it last 3 games on the road against top 75 teams.

Kansas is 5-2 against Sagarin top 63 teams, but just 1-2 against top 63 teams on the road, and its win against a top 63 team on the road was over three months ago - USC on Dec 2nd.

The Aggies know that this game will have a national spotlight, and that an upset of the Jayhawks will erase much of the disappointment of the last month. Not only will a win over Kansas lock down an NCAA tourney invite for the Aggies, but an upset of Kansas when combined with the win over Baylor could even propel the Aggies back into the Top 25.

While Kansas is definitely the favorite going into this game, the home court advantage combined with what is sure to be an emotionally charged Aggie team and coaches give A&M a chance for a big upset.

 


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