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Texas A&M is Vanderbilt’s best opportunity to get an SEC win

Vanderbilt has a 69% chance of winning on Saturday, per KenPom.

Texas A&M v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Vanderbilt Commodores are currently on a 21-game SEC losing streak dating back to March 2018. But Ken Pomeroy’s algorithm thinks it’s more likely than not that Vanderbilt will end the skid on Saturday afternoon.

The Texas A&M Aggies come to Memorial Gym for a 2:30 PM tip on the SEC Network, and while they’re currently 1-1 in the SEC, KenPom says they’re the worst team in the league. The Aggies have yet to win away from College Station this season — they’re 0-4 on neutral sites, including a 67-62 loss to #264 Fairfield on December 1, and lost their only road game so far at Arkansas last Saturday. And while they can claim a 15-point win over Oregon State and a 10-point win over Ole Miss, they also have single-digit wins over the likes of UL-Monroe, Troy, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (ahem), and Texas Southern.

All right, then. Now, let’s get this out of the way: Texas A&M can play defense. The Aggies rank 57th nationally in defensive efficiency and also possess the SEC’s best shot-blocker in Josh Nebo. They’re pretty good at defending the three-point line and rarely put teams at the foul line. Just four teams have cracked a point per possession against Texas A&M and one of those was Gonzaga.

The offense, on the other hand, is dreadful. Nebo has attempted 70 shots this season — all two-pointers.— and has made 70 percent of them, which usually indicates that the vast majority of his shot attempts are coming right around the basket. And you can make a valid argument that he is Texas A&M’s best offensive player. Surrounding him are a group of guys who have combined to shoot 23.4 percent from three-point range, good for 353rd in Division I. For reference, there are 353 teams in Division I. The Aggies also don’t take good care of the ball, ranking 320th in turnover percentage. They don’t really have a point guard; 6’2” freshman Andre Gordon is the closest thing they have to one, and he’s really more of a combo guard, and they’ve also given significant minutes (and six starts) to 5’8” senior Mark French, a former walk-on. As a general rule, when a former walk-on is averaging 14.8 minutes per game, your team probably has issues. (This is about like that time Kevin Stallings was giving real minutes to Carter Josephs. That happened because Vanderbilt had seven scholarship players.)

Of course, Buzz Williams hasn’t really had a chance to remake the roster, and returnees Savion Flagg, Jay-Jay Chandler, and Wendell Mitchell have regressed since last year. Meanwhile, T.J. Starks — last year’s point guard — was dismissed from the team in November.

Now, let’s not assume that this is an automatic win. But getting this team at Memorial Gym has to be considered Vanderbilt’s best chance to get in the win column in SEC play. Your move, Jerry Stackhouse.