clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The SEC's Worst Losses: No. 8 Texas A&M

Hey, another team that can't buy a win at Bud Walton Arena!

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt needs a high profile win to work its way back into NCAA Tournament consideration. Fortunately for the Commodores, the nation's no. 8 team is headed to Nashville this week.

The 'Dores are a middling 12-9 this season with only one win over an RPI top 25 team. However, that victory came last week over Florida on the same court that Texas A&M will travel to on Thursday. Vanderbilt won a slopfest that night, but they'll have to be better to topple an Aggie team that has risen to the top of the Southeastern Conference standings.

A&M has maximized its talent this winter. After being picked to finish third in the league by the Associated Press, the Aggies have leaped to the top of the standings behind the backcourt play of Jalen Jones, Danuel House, and Alex Caruso along with the uber-efficient frontcourt scoring of Tyler Davis. TAMU's devastating inside-out game has helped the team record quality wins over Texas, Gonzaga, Baylor, Florida, and Iowa State.

Vanderbilt needs to derail that scoring if they want to notch their biggest win of 2015-16. The Commodores are just 1-7 against RPI top 50 teams, and that lack of quality wins has been the anchor holding down their postseason resume. Another defeat on Thursday won't completely sink their NCAA Tournament hopes, but it will represent yet another wasted opportunity for a signature victory.

So how can Vandy pull off the upset? Here's how Arkansas did it last week.

Texas A&M (18-3, 7-1 SEC, ranked No. 8 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)

Worst Loss: at Arkansas (11-10. 4-4 SEC, No. 54 KenPomNo. 88 CBS RPI), 71-74
Other Losses: vs. Syracuse, at Arizona State

Well, this is familiar. The Aggies lost a tight game in Fayetteville when Arkansas took an early lead and then fended off a late comeback from a favored visiting team. But while Vanderbilt fans can comfort themselves with replays of Damian Jones' game-tying dunk, the Texas A&M faithful can only grumble about missed opportunities and that weird Walton Arena magic that makes mediocre Arkansas teams able to slay hardwood giants.

The Aggies had five different chances to tie the game or take the lead in the final four minutes but squandered them all en route to their first conference loss of the year. A&M shot just 25 percent from the field down the stretch and turned the ball over three times to prevent Arkansas from throwing this contest away.

Point of emphasis: Create chaos. Arkansas forced 21 Aggie turnovers in their upset win, including 10 from TAMU's starting guards. Those mistakes led to 13 Razorback points, but a stronger offense could double that output - or more. If Wade Baldwin is back to full strength, expect him to be very opportunistic against Texas A&M's backcourt.

Keys to the Game:

  • Let Vanderbilt's big men go to work. Moses Kingley didn't have the most efficient performance of the day (6-13 shooting), but he led the Razorbacks with 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead his team to victory. Five of Kingsley's rebounds came on the offensive end, leading to eight second chance points that helped tip the scales in Arkansas' favor. Vanderbilt has the size and talent to create a similar impact on Thursday night.
  • Force Anthony Collins to beat you. Collins is a staid distributor who opens up the Aggies' half-court offense, but he's not much of a scorer. The pass-first guard is shooting just 40.8 percent this season and was held to a two-point, one-assist, three-turnover against the Hogs. If Vanderbilt can hassle him into a negative-impact night, they can kick one of the legs from under A&M's scoring base.
  • Hands straight up. Texas A&M may have only shot 39 percent from the field against Arkansas, but their free throw shooting kept them in the game. The Aggies attempted 35 free throws and made 28 of them - an average more than 15 points higher than their season average before playing in Fayetteville. A&M will be aggressive in the paint, and Vanderbilt will have to hope the new, aggressive-but-foul-free Damian Jones is able to escape the referees' whistles on Thursday.