Ladies and gentlemen, we might have a basketball season on our hands.
On Wednesday, the Aggies knocked off Missouri in front of a much improved student turnout for their third straight SEC victory. A&M now sits at 3-2, and could cement their status in the top half of the conference with a road victory at surprising 4-1 Tennessee.
Before we jump into this weekend's items to watch, let's take a quick look at the upcoming Aggie schedule (RPI value in the far left column)
First thought? Road games. Uh oh. Road games, road games, road games. But upon closer inspection... these are winnable. In fact, aside from Tennessee, I'd dare suggest that A&M could be favored @Auburn and @Ole Miss. In any regard, A&M needs to come out of this stretch 2-2 at a minimum, because...
Pretty soon, it's gut check time. A road game @Mizzou (the Ags 4th road test in 5 games) prefaces a monster week against three top-half SEC squads that are also battling for postseason play. Y'all, I think we're going to get some old school crowds for that week of basketball, and I can't wait.
But enough of the high-level stuff. We have a road game today against the team in sole position of 2nd, and we're riding high. Let's make it four in a row.
1) Tennessee has a little momentum of their own
After a "meh" opening victory against Mississippi State and a beating at the hands of Alabama (who are we to judge?), Tennessee has also run off three straight (a great win at home against Arkansas, and two grinding road victories at Mizzou and South Carolina). Their fan base is starting to get excited, and they're going to get a great crowd today in Knoxville. It could be the most hostile road environment we face this season.
2) Can we continue our excellent ball security?
I'm going to hammer this point until I see it mentioned more often - we have done a great, great job taking care of the basketball. We're second only to Kentucky in "fewest turnovers per game," and third to Arkansas and Kentucky in assist-to-turnover ratio.
I bring this up because Tennessee loves to play aggressive on D. The are dead last in the SEC in defensive rebounding, but they still manage to play competent defense (6th in the SEC to our 5th) by gambling up top. A lot. If we can neutralize that and run some efficient offensive sets, we have a real chance to win this game. But if the TO's rear their ugly head and the crowd gets going behind a slew of transition buckets... we'll come back to CS a .500 ball club.
3) It's about consistency
We've done some nice things over the past ten days. My prior fear about Jones and House having incompatible offensive games has been somewhat alleviated, and we've shortened our rotation to ten or less (which is what you have to do at this level).
We just have to get rid of those darn first half cushions. Eventually, that's going to catch up with us. If we come out strong, we have enough talent to win this game... but if we start poorly, I just don't see us overcoming a fourth consecutive halftime deficit. Let's start hot, maintain momentum through the first half, and get it done.