There was no shortage of excitement the last two times these teams have met, with the first ending in a record-setting, 5 OT game, and the next concluding with boos, catcalls, and plastic soda bottles in Waco as the Aggies escaped with a win. The circumstances are similar to last year, as A&M looks to be fighting tooth and nail to earn another tournament bid through the tough Big 12 south while Baylor looks to be on their way to a favorable seed come March.
The Aggies will play host this time around on Wednesday, and will look to keep their perfect record in Reed Arena this season intact. They will face familiar faces on the Baylor squad, as the Bears return four seniors who have played together each year, along with Junior Tweety Carter and sophomore 3-point man LaceDarius Dunn.
Here are the projected lineups for each team:
Donald Sloan – Jr. (11.6ppg, 3.5apg)
Derrick Roland – Jr. (4.9ppg, 2.3rpg)
Josh Carter – Sr. (13.1ppg, 4.1rpg)
Bryan Davis – Jr. (10.3ppg, 6.4rpg)
Chinemelu Elonu – Jr. (10.1ppg, 7.3rpg)
Curtis Jerrells – Sr. (16.5ppg, 5.9apg)
Tweety Carter – Jr. (11.2ppg, 3.0rpg)
Henry Dugat – Sr. (13.5ppg, 3.5rpg)
Kevin Rogers – Sr. (12.3ppg, 7.7rpg)
Mamadou Diene – Sr. (2.0ppg, 1.6rpg)
A&M head coach Mark Turgeon understands that this game will be charged from the beginning with so many returning faces from the events that happened both on and off the court last year. He is aware that this is not only a crucial game from a tournament perspective but also for the emerging rivalry between these two programs.
"Well the (5 OT) game here was just a classic game," Turgeon said at his press conference on Monday. "They had a good team and we had a good team. They were really trying to establish themselves last year as an NCAA tournament team, and they did that. This year is their best team in quite some time. Then, (last year) the game [in Waco] had so much meaning; we were both fighting for our NCAA lives, us more than them. Two schools that close together, playing for so much… it got a little intense. But that is college basketball."
Despite having two forwards in the starting lineup, Diene is there in name only, as he is frequently benched in favor of sophomore LaceDarius Dunn, who is averaging over 16 points per game and has been red hot from behind the arc. With this lineup, Scott Drew effectively utilizes four guards at one time and can throw the other team off balance by pushing the ball up the court and playing aggressive defense.
Luckily for A&M, this was exactly the kind of play that they faced against Oklahoma State, so it will be more familiar to the Aggies on Wednesday. "No question (it helps to have prepared against this before)," Turgeon said. "They like to push the ball, they like to run, they shoot threes, they are good off the dribble. Jerrells and Eton, they are a lot alike, and then the rest of the team can play bigger. Baylor can start bigger with Rodgers at the 4 and one of their big guys at the 5. They are similar."
Additionally, rising star for A&M Chinemelu Elonu has played his best against smaller opponents, utilizing his height to get to the rim. If Baylor chooses to take out Diene, they will leave Elonu with a very favorable matchup that could work in the Aggies favor. Expect Elonu to have a big game, but it may not be enough to hold off the surging bears.
Texas A&M: 75
Aggies ready for test against Bears
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