Three-Point Line: Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

1-4 Vanderbilt heads to Reed Arena this Saturday with A&M's recent confidence rapidly eroding.

Date: Saturday, January 25 (Reed Arena)

Game time: Noon CT

TV: ESPNU / WatchESPN

"Must win."

It's such a played out cliche. It really is. And I use it begrudgingly. But when you factor in last season's conference start (2-0 out of the gate; 0-4 immediately afterwards), the comedy of errors in Starkville, the Fabyon suspension, and the beating in Lexington... there's really no other way to describe this game. The difference between 4-2 and 3-3 has never been larger.

With that backdrop in mind, here are three keys for our upcoming game against the Commodores.

Look! A Friend!

The Aggies have been safely stowed away in the SEC "team PPG" basement for pretty much the entire year, with our 68.3 points per game placing us a healthy 14th out of 14 SEC teams. But the Vanderbilt Commodores have come knocking. With scores of 52, 58, 62, and 63 in their four conference losses, they have fallen to a nearly identical 68.4 (13th).

And the similarities don't end there. Free throw % (A&M - 13th; Vanderbilt - 14th), offensive rebounding (A&M - 14th; Vanderbilt - 13th) and even attendance (A&M - 13th; Vanderbilt - 14th) have the two schools paired at the bottom of the barrel.

So... what does it all mean? Well, when combined with a handful of other statistics, it means we should win the game. While A&M ranks decently well in steals (7th) and turnover margin (5th), Vanderbilt (13th and 14th, respectively) really struggles in those categories. I expect them to have a great deal of trouble on the offensive end.

Fouls. Literally all of the fouls.

You could be forgiven for wondering if our defensive strategy is simply to foul the %&@! out of everyone. While our SEC defensive numbers (2nd PPG; 4th FG%) still hold up despite the two losses, we've conjured some simply amazing FT statistics.

  • Texas A&M has committed 50 fouls in the last two games.
  • Opponents have been in the bonus for over 40 combined minutes in the last two games.
  • Opponents have attempted 17 (59 to 42) more free throws than A&M in the last two games
  • Opponents have slightly outshot A&M from the line (65% - 59%) in the last two games, leading to 13 extra cumulative points
With an offensively challenged (see point #1) team coming to town, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to knock these numbers down. Let's keep the defensive intensity, but maybe move our feet a little bit and stop picking up fouls outside the three point line. We don't need to give them points from the charity stripe when they really struggle to score.

Slow down Rod Odom.

6-9 senior forward Rod Odom's per-game averages (35 minutes; 14.5 PPG / 5.6 RPG / 44% FG / 44% 3PT) are impressive, and we're going to have to make sure we keep tabs on this guy beyond the arc. He's hit 13 threes in his last three games en route to 24, 20, and 18 points. Our Ags have done a nice job on the opponent's main scorer throughout the year, and we'll need a similar effort if we want to come out with a W.

Prediction

I predict #SECBasketballFever. Watching these the two teams try to score is going to be the most SEC thing ever. But I expect our Ags to show a bit of defensive discretion and walk away with a really ugly hard fought victory.

Texas A&M - 61, Vanderbilt - 54

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