If there's one thing that's immediately apparent when scouting the Texas A&M roster, it's the sheer size of the Aggies. With five players 6-9 or taller and a line-up which at times has included just a single guard, A&M has among the largest eight-man rotations in the country. Head coach Billy Kennedy has tweaked the look based upon match-ups and opponent preferences, but it matters little. This will be the literal biggest test of the season for West Virginia as it prepares to play host to A&M on Saturday at Noon inside the Coliseum as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
"They are huge. They have unbelievable size," Huggins said. "Their inside guys are big, long and they are terrific around the goal. They have as big of guys as we have played against on the perimeter. Their size is our biggest concern."
Texas A&M boasts a front line that starts the rarely-seen pair of centers in 6-10 Tyler Davis and 6-10 Tonny Trocha-Morelos, along with either of the forwards in 6-9 DJ Hogg and 6-9 Robert Williams matched with guards Admon Gilder (6-4) and JC Hampton (6-1). The height differential isn't great when the Aggies go to the bench, with forward Tavario Miller (6-8) and guard Chris Collins (6-3). It serves to give Kennedy security in both rebounding and rim protection, as well as transitioning from man into a 2-3 zone which has fueled the A&M (11-8, 3-5 SEC) in winning two in a row and three of their last five after an early skid in SEC play.
And the size isn't merely for show. Kennedy took Texas A&M to the Sweet 16 last year in his fifth season at the helm while setting a school record with 25 wins in winning a share of the SEC regular season title while being named conference coach of the year. The Aggies suffered attrition from that team, and it showed when A&M lost six of their first eight after entering SEC play. But as the line-up has gained experience and adjusted to major conference competition, Texas A&M has continued to emerge as a late-season threat.
Davis, Hogg, Gilder and Williams are all averaging more than 11 points per game, while Hogg and Gilder have created mismatches on the perimeter by shooting 38.1 and 39.2 percent, respectively, from three-point range. At 6-9 and 6-4, they can get shots over smaller opponents, while Williams and Davis have cleaned up around the rim, shooting better than 60 percent from the floor and averaging almost seven rebounds apiece per game. Overall, Texas A&M averages more than 39 rebounds per game, including an average of 13.7 per contest on the offensive glass. Add in the 107 blocks on the season - including Williams' team-best 46 for an average of 2.4 per game for second-best in the SEC - and A&M has the components to challenge WVU in the halfcourt.
"I think it may be the biggest team we have ever faced," Huggins said. "They are just huge and they play some 2-3 zone and they are so long there is not a lot of open areas. We have to spend a couple good days getting ready to attack that 2-3 zone."
As always, ball movement within the motion offense will be key to dissecting the zone, as will solid shot selection and the ability to pass into the interior. Frankly, No. 18 West Virginia (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) needs to turn this into an fast-paced, uptempo transition game to keep away from A&M's plodding, methodical style. Where WVU averages 88 points per game to rank seventh nationally, the Aggies have managed just 72.5 per contest, 10th best in the 14-team SEC. In their 12 games against power conference opponents (4-8 record) A&M has averaged just 66 points per game and has scored more than 70 just twice. It is just 1-3 in true road games this season.
"Win the game and get back ready for league play," Huggins said of WVU's goals for the nonconference tilt. "I think that's it. (Kansas) is a great win and it's over with and we have to concentrate on Texas A&M and then we have hard games coming up in the league. We have to go to (Iowa State) after Saturday. There are just no nights off. ... Our guys and our fan base and everybody else is really locked into conference play right now. I think (the SEC/Big 12 Challenge) are great events. They are absolutely great events. (But) the timing of it isn't up to us."