Texas A&M Preview

Every year, there are teams that tear through non-conference play, only to have reality set in once the conference starts off. And Texas A&M's (12-10, 3-7 Big 12) only real non-con warning sign came when the Aggies were upset by Rice. Still, a 9-3 non-con record didn't indicate what happened next.

But then in league play, the Aggies got off to a rough start, winning just one of their first five conference games — with the only win coming against cellar-dweller Texas Tech. Three of those four losses came by double-digits, with the other almost coming by that margin (a nine-point loss to Baylor).

But the Aggies have rebounded a bit, and shown some toughness. A&M beat Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, while putting some scare into Kansas, Baylor and Kansas State.

If there's one thing keeping the Aggies back, it's their offense. Many teams choose to play slowly, but are efficient in doing so. Texas A&M plays at the nation's 300th fastest pace … and still ranks 205th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. To contrast that with a year ago, last year, the Aggies played at a slightly slower pace (326th nationally) but were ranked 69th in offensive efficiency.

Where that offense went is anybody's guess. The Aggies were picked as the co-champions in the preseason (along with Kansas) largely because of the number of key players the Aggies returned. But for whatever reason, the drink hasn't been mixed quite as well this year on the offensive end, despite many of the same ingredients.

In fact, two of the key pieces of the 2010-2011 A&M puzzle — Khris Middleton and David Loubeau — not only failed to take a step forward, but could have regressed. Granted, part of their offensive production has gone to Elston Turner, who sat out last year as a transfer from Washington. But Middleton went from consensus All-Big 12 to out of the Big 12's top-20 scorers.

Indeed, Turner, averaging 14.5 points per game, is the only Aggie on that list. He's followed by Middleton (12.4) and Loubeau (11.0). Ray Turner, a 6-9 forward, is fourth in points (9.5) and first in rebounds (5.9) per contest.

Part of the issue is ball-handling. The Aggies are among the Big 12's worst teams in terms of turnover margin, and point guard Dash Harris is the only regular with an assist-to-turnover ratio approaching 2-to-1. But Harris, who also leads the team in steals, is also the starting lineup's worst offensive threat, scoring under six points per game.

Defensively, the Aggies aren't exciting, but they get the job done. Despite lacking a shot-blocker or elite steal guy, A&M ranks 35th nationally in defensive efficiency, simply by getting out on opponents and forcing them to take contested shots. That statistic is displayed by the way the Aggies defend the three-point line, allowing teams to shoot just 27 percent from behind the arc, a Big 12-best defensive rate.

The Aggies can certainly be dangerous for the Longhorns, and they're 11-3 in home games this year. Add in the fact that it's the last time the two teams will play for the foreseeable future, and the game could be even more tense.

But if A&M is going to win, it will probably have to get the offense going. The Aggies have averaged 74.7 points in their three Big 12 wins, and those three happen to be their three highest-scoring conference games. In the Aggies' seven league losses, they've averaged 53 points per game, and have only topped 54 points once.

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