For the second time in a week, the Texas A&M Aggies (24-9, 10-8 Big 12) face the No. 5-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (29-3, 14-3 Big 12), this time in the Big 12 Tournament Semifinals at Kansas City’s Sprint Center on Saturday afternoon.
With both teams NCAA tourney invites secure, this game is about pride and momentum.
The game tips off at 3:20 pm and be televised nationally on ESPN2.
The Aggies are 24-9 on the season and has won four of its last six games.
The Aggies lost to Kansas 72-55 last Saturday in College Station. In that game, Texas A&M led after almost ten minutes of play, were within 7 points midway through the second half, before Kansas pulled away for the win.
The win over the Aggies secured Kansas a share of the Big 12 regular season championship with Texas. The Jayhawks have won 51 league titles, including the last four and eight of the twelve Big 12 championships.
Kansas and Texas A&M are meeting for the 14th time in a series that dates back to 1967. Kansas leads the overall series 12-1 but Texas A&M won a colossal battle last season, 69-66, in Lawrence.
Kansas' three losses this 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 31 of 32 opponents to less than 50 percent shooting and 103 of its last 106 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 1.4 blocked shots a game and has 12 games with multiple blocked shots this season, including five in conference action. Arthur was 8-of-10 from the field, scoring 16 points in last Saturday's win over the Aggies.
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.
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. Chalmers scored 16 points in last Saturday's win over the Aggies.
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 32 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..
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 Iowa State and Kansas State games: senior guard Dominique Kirk (6-4, 185), sophomore guard Donald Sloan (6-3, 205), junior forward Josh Carter (6-7, 200), senior forward Joseph Jones (6-9, 255), and sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250).
Dominique Kirk is averaging 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists a game. Kirk owns the Big 12 record for consecutive starts with 127. A defensive All-American last year, Kirk’s primary defensive assignment in Big 12 play this year has made just 34 percent from the field. Kirk scored 15 points in Saturday's loss to Kansas. Kirk scored 12 points and pulled down 6 rebounds in Thursday's win over Iowa State. Kirk hit five 3-pointers and had 19 points to lead the Aggies over Kansas State on Thursday night.
Donald Sloan is averaging 9.9 points, 3.9 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 and scored 15 points in Saturday's loss to Kansas. Sloan overcame the personal tragedy of losing in mother early Thursday to lead the Aggie win over Iowa State with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Prior to Thursday's Iowa State game, Sloan had made 32 of his last 34 (.941) free throws, including 17 straight.
Josh Carter leads the Aggies in scoring with 12.5 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. Carter has hit 66 three-pointers this season and ranks fifth in career three-point accuracy in Big 12 history at 42.9 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 last Wednesday's win over Baylor.
Joseph Jones is averaging 10.6 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.
Freshman center DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 260) did not play on Thursday night and was only able to play for 5 minutes of the Kansas State game.
Jordan acquired a nasty stomach virus on Tuesday night and couldn’t even eat on Wednesday. He was unable to participate in the team’s workout session on Wednesday afternoon and was finally able to eat small portions at the team’s pregame meal on Thursday. At that point, the Aggies believed that Jordan would be able to go for the Aggies against Iowa State. But during pregame warm-ups, Jordan’s condition deteriorated once again and continued to worsen until he finally left the bench and was taken to a local hospital to be examined for possible appendicitis. Jordan tested negaative for appendicitis and returned briefly to the lineup against Kansas State, but just didn't have the strength to contribute.
Starting in place of Jordan will be Bryan Davis. After coming off the bench the first 17 games of the season,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 (34), ranks second in blocks (33) and is third in rebounding (4.8). 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.
With Jordan's limited Big 12 tourney availability, sophomore forward Chinemelu Elonu (6-10, 235) has seen more playing time. With Jordan out, Elonu played 19 solid minutes in Thursday's win over Iowa State and 18 minutes in Friday's upset of Kansas State.
Averaging over 20 minutes a game and usually first off the bench is sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6-4, 190). Roland averaged 9.3 points in the three games prior to Baylor, but has been limited in the last three games by a shoulder injury.
With Roland slowed by injury, senior guard Beau Muhlbach (6-5, 205) has seen increased playing time. Muhlbach has averaged 7.0 points in the last five games. He scored a career-high 12 points with a career-best 5 rebounds in the win at Baylor. Muhlbach played 24 minutes in Thursday's win over Iowa State and scored 6 key points and played 15 minutes of the Kansas State game with 5 points..
With his deep Kansas ties, this will be another 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 other games against teams rated as high as A&M, USC and Texas, and is 1-1 in those games.
Kansas is 11-3 against Sagarin top 75 teams, but only 4-3 against top 75 teams on the road, and prior to last Saturday's win over A&M had lost it last 3 games on the road against top 75 teams.
Kansas is 6-2 against Sagarin top 63 teams, but just 2-2 against top 63 teams on the road, and prior to last Saturday's win over A&M its only other win against a top 63 team on the road was over three months ago - USC on Dec 2nd.
While Kansas is definitely the favorite going into this game, after huge wins over Iowa State and Kansas State, what is sure to be an emotionally charged Aggie team and coaches give A&M a chance for a big upset.