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Preview: Vandy Looks to Snap a Six-Game Losing Streak Against Surging Aggies

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Vanderbilt has lost six in a row. Texas A&M has won five. Will the Commodores be able to reverse their momentum against a streaking Aggie team on Saturday?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt has lost six straight games after starting off SEC play with a win. Texas A&M has won five straight after losing their first two conference matchups. On Saturday, two teams that are moving in very different directions will face off in College Station.

The 'Dores have had a rough run through league play, but they've also been hammered by a schedule that served up five games against RPI Top 50 teams in their 1-6 stretch (the sixth, against #200 Mississippi State, is less explainable). They'll get no reprieve in Texas this weekend. The Aggies are beginning to receive top 25 votes thanks to the play of Houston transfer Danuel House. The 6'7" wing has scored 15 or more points in his last six games. He's almost certainly looking at Vandy's disjointed defense and salivating at the thought of putting up 20+ this weekend.

The common thread in all but one of Vandy's six straight losses has been that they've been outshot - even by a Mississippi State team that made only 38.6% of their attempts. The Commodores have found a way to rise to the level of their opponents but haven't exceeded it since beating Auburn back on January 6th. They'll have to play efficiently to match up with an A&M team that made more than 49 percent of their shots in their last two wins.

Vanderbilt needs a big road win to pull themselves from the tailspin that has only gotten worse as January has drawn on. Texas A&M needs to beat Vandy to keep driving towards an NCAA Tournament berth. Let's take a closer look at an oddly compelling matchup between two teams that received little press during the preseason.

The Opponent: Texas A&M University (14-5, 5-2 SEC)

KenPom Rankings: Texas A&M is 46th. Vanderbilt is 60th. Losing to Georgia somehow raised Vandy's profile six spots.

Key Stat: 41.2%. That's the combined SEC winning percentage of the five teams A&M has beaten in league play. They've notched quality victories over LSU and Tennessee, but games against Missouri, Mississippi State, and Auburn mean that the majority of their wins have come against teams that sit in the conference's basement. Unfortunately, that's where Vanderbilt lies right now. If the Commodores want to climb out of that rut, it starts with a win against an Aggie team that doesn't stand to win much with a victory but could lose big if they can't defend their home court.

Matchup to Watch: Jalen Jones vs. Luke Kornet and James Siakam. Much of Vandy's defensive focus will by on stopping House, but Jones will provide a dynamic scoring threat in the frontcourt. He's scored in double-digits every game he's played this calendar year, but his 6-18 shooting performance against LSU shows that he's not always efficient around the rim.

Vanderbilt doesn't have the kind of defense that Tiger big men Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey provide, but they do have some length (Kornet) and toughness (Siakam) in the paint alongside shot blocker Damian Jones. They'll need to put a body on Jones to keep him from cutting to the rim or finding the space to elevate for a jumper in the paint. Jones isn't afraid to shoot from long range, but the majority of his made three-pointers came in a blowout win over Youngstown State. Forcing him out to the arc to catch his breath could be a huge key in an upset victory on Saturday.

Starters and Rotation Players:

Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Wade Baldwin IV 7.3 3.7 4.3
G - Riley LaChance 12.5 3.1 2.6
F - Jeff Roberson 4.7 3.3 1.1
F - Luke Kornet 9.0 4.0 0.7
C - Damian Jones 15.6 7.0 0.9
Key Reserves
F - James Siakam 8.2 5.3 0.5
G/F - Matthew Fisher-Davis 6.3 2.2 1.0
G - Shelton Mitchell 5.0 2.4 4.0
Texas A&M
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Alex Caruso 9.0 4.5 5.3
G - Danuel House 14.3 4.0 1.9
G - Jordan Green 6.1 1.8 1.7
F - Jalen Jones 14.1 6.1 0.8
F - Kourtney Roberson 7.6 5.4 0.8
Key Reserves
G - Alex Robinson 4.8 2.4 2.9
C - Tonny Trocha-Morelos 1.5 2.2 0.2
F - Tavario Miller 2.9 4.1 0.1