The 2016-2017 season has been a big letdown for the Texas A&M basketball community, after a spectacular 2015-2016 season saw the Aggies go 28-9 and lose in the Sweet 16 of college basketball’s biggest tournament. The 13-10 Aggies have already exceeded their loss total from last season, and barring a major late season push, will not be representing one of college basketball’s best 68 teams in March. A big win over the 17th ranked Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon, however, could potentially turn the season around for Texas A&M.
What the Aggies Need to do to Win:
The Aggies need to take advantage of their size in order to beat the streaking Gators, who are winners of five straight. Four of A&M’s top five scorers are above 6-9, with the other being Admon Gilder, a lethal 6-4 combo guard. While the Gators are not a small team by any means, if John Egbunu gets into foul trouble (which is common), A&M could have their way in the paint. The Aggies are also the best offensive rebounding team in the SEC, averaging 13.3 offensive boards per game. If Florida can’t limit second chance opportunities for the over-sized Aggies, the Gators could be handed their third SEC loss on Saturday.
While this size provides many advantages, it can also hinder the Aggie offense. Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy pointed out that constantly playing with big lineups limits the amount of playmakers on the floor.
The Aggies are also very good at moving the ball, averaging 16.8 assists per game, which ranks second in the SEC. They love to spread the ball around the wing for the sole purpose of opening up space in the paint for their dominant center, Tyler Davis. The sophomore averages 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1 block in 25 minutes per game. He has the ability to take over every single game, so the defensive game plan for Florida head coach Mike White has to be based around Davis.
With Davis owning the interior, Admon Gilder has been running the show on both ends of the floor. The standout sophomore averages 13.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in 33.4 minutes per game. Head coach Billy Kennedy provided some high praise for the youngster. When Gilder and Davis get going, A&M is an extremely difficult team to stop. However, that clearly hasn’t been the case too often this season.
Strengths Can Only Carry a Team so Far:
While the Aggie strengths are evident, so are their weaknesses. They rank 11th in the SEC in scoring (72.6 per game), 11th in three-point percentage (34.1%), 14th in free-throw percentage (64.7%), 11th in defensive rebounds (25.3 per game), and 11th in turnovers (14.1 per game). These flaws have haunted A&M all season long, with six of their ten losses coming by single digits.
The stifling Gator defense that averages 8.0 turnovers per game should give A&M a really difficult time getting up quality shots. A&M is extremely weak shooting the three and hitting foul shots, which doesn’t bode well against a defensive-oriented team like Florida.
Only Way to Win:
The Aggies really need to own the glass and create a plethora of second chance opportunities for a chance to walk out of Gainesville with a victory. The interior presence of Tyler Davis, DJ Hogg, Robert Williams, and Tonny Trocha-Morelos must force the Gator big men into foul trouble, which will subsequently force the Gators to play a different brand of basketball. While the Gators are the evident favorite in the contest, A&M has shown the ability to compete and even beat some top notch teams.