A&M vs. Texas: Match Ups

After coming off of two straight losses, the Aggies have one more crucial test before they conclude the hardest beginning conference stretch in Big 12 history. They face off against rival Texas, and Aggie Websider takes a look at the match ups of the game.

Match Ups

Justin Mason (7.2ppg, 4.9apg) vs. Donald Sloan (11.3ppg, 3.2apg)

The position of point guard is often called the quarterback on the court, so it may be surprising that both of these players have had to expand their role to the point guard position after neither school had found a suitable fit for the position. Both players have undergone growing pains in learning the position, but Mason seems to have found his niche on the team and is averaging almost 5 assists per game, while Sloan has struggled the past few games including a horrendous outing Monday against Kansas.

Both players have the athleticism to be able to drive to the basket, and are some of the most physical point men in the conference, although Mason has shown better vision on finding the open man. There is still room for Sloan to exploit this match up however, as Mason has struggled at times this year to get back on defense after a missed shot, choosing instead to crash the boards. As a result, if Sloan can press the ball up the court A&M could find success in its transition game.

Advantage: Texas

A.J. Abrams (17.4ppg, 2.2 rpg) vs. Derrick Roland (5.5ppg, 2.2rpg)

Once labeled by Coach Barnes as a better shooter than former Longhorn D.J. Augustine, Abrams has no fear in trying to make that prediction come true, even if he is only shooting 38.4% from the field on the year. Roland, on the other hand, is anything but a shooter, although he has attempted more three pointers over the last two games. Still, his totals are nowhere near Abrams' 7.7 3-point attempts per game, where he is making 39%.

Unfortunately for Roland, his strength on defense comes from being able to stop penetrating guards, and Abrams will penetrate only when absolutely necessary. He instead relies on picks and simple ball screens to get open on the perimeter and take the 3-point shot, essentially negating Roland's main strength and reason for being on the court. Because of this, expect to see more Holmes at the two, as he provides the Aggies with more of a scoring threat to match Abrams, if he can find his shot again.

Advantage: Texas

Damion James (14.9ppg, 8.3rpg) vs. Josh Carter (13.1ppg, 4.2rpg)

Damion James is perhaps Texas' most dynamic athlete, too crafty and agile to be labeled a post man but too physical to be labeled a guard, he will start out against Carter but could very well be moved to the post. Defensively, Carter will have a tough time competing with James, but if he can keep him in front of his body and outside of the paint James' performance drops significantly. He has been known to shoot the three, but has not been very effective so far this year.

Offensively, Carter may find some open looks if other guards can penetrate and draw James in. Damion does not like to be away from the basket, and will crash the boards at any sign of a shot, so if the Aggies can lure him away from Carter there may be opportunity for some open three point looks. If not, this could be a rough match for Texas A&M.

Advantage: Texas

Gary Johnson (11.1ppg, 7.2rpg), Dexter Pittman (8.5ppg, 4.4rpg), and Connor Atchley (6.0ppg, 3.6rpg) vs. Bryan Davis (10.4ppg, 6.1rpg), Chinemelu Elonu (10.2ppg, 7.5rpg)

Texas' post players are rotated so frequently it makes sense to evaluate these units as a group, as even Damion James will also join the blocks when the Longhorns decide to go small. Gary Johnson, while undersized vertically, is probably the best offensive player of the bunch, and shoots well in midrange areas as well as under the rim. Davis will most likely see him, and could find opportunities for his own baskets when Johnson is in the game, as Davis has 3-4 inches on him and more polished post moves.

For center, Elonu will be facing either Connor Atchley or Dexter Pittman, both of whom bring the substantial size that has given Elonu problems in the last two contests. Pittman is a foul machine, racking up 2.7 per game despite playing only 13 minutes per contest. When he is in, he should be attacked with the ball, allowing A&M to get to the line and get Pittman to the bench. This is crucial, as he brings a substantial force on the offensive side of his game. Overall, however, Texas has enough big men to absorb any losses early foul trouble could bring down low.

Advantage: Texas

Overall Thoughts

While Texas comes out ahead in the starters in every position, this is not exactly telling of the whole story. There are particular chinks in the armor of the Longhorns, the main one being depth at the point guard position. After Mason, Texas will have to rely on Dogus Balbay, who has struggled all year to create anything offensively and is a significant step down from the starting five.

The Aggies need to hope that this game is called tight and that the Longhorn's guards get in to early foul trouble. A&M can absorb fouls of their own, as they are a deeper team than the Longhorns, and also significantly better at the foul stripe. Texas' free throw woes could come into play if this game is kept close near the end. However, if the game is called loose like it was last year in Austin, the Aggies could be in for a similar fate.

Prediction

Texas: 78
Texas A&M: 65




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