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#18 Texas A&M at Arizona State Preview/GameThread

Aggie Hoops heads to Tempe for a nationally televised road test. (9:30pm; ESPN2; WatchESPN)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It's showtime.

Our nationally ranked Aggie Hoops squad is staring down the barrel of an @ASU/Kansas State/Baylor stretch of non-conference games, so we can safely say that cupcake season is over. But some smart scheduling by the Ags (i.e., loading up early before the trip to the Bahamas) has spaced this run of games very nicely, with no midweek games cluttering the three key Saturday contests.

We'll be rested, focused, and rolling at full strength. This run of games is our opportunity to show the nation that our trip to the Bahamas was no fluke, and it starts tonight.

Let's break it down.


First games don't treat these guys well

We all know what happened in Arizona State's first football game... but their basketball season started even worse with a horrid, horrid season-opening home loss to Sacramento State.

To their credit they have gone 5-1 since, which includes tight wins over two power conference programs (NC State; Creighton) and a tight loss to a third (Marquette). And while their cupcake wins haven't been A&M-style 40-point beatings, they've ultimately prevailed in contests that probably give them the edge in "tight game" experience.

Quick note: The Sun Devils head to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky next Saturday, so we'll get a nice early barometer of how we stack up against the Wildcats.

They have a hot hand of their own

We've talked at length about the recent success of Jalen Jones, but ASU also has a forward playing out of his mind. Savon Goodman (13.9 PPG; 7.7 RPG) scored 37 points in his last two contests on 16-22 shooting, and he also had a nice 21pt/16rb effort in their big early-season win over NC State. The moment won't be too big for him.

One final thing to keep in mind... this guy is a career 55% free throw shooter, and we have no shortage of big bodies. If he starts to become a problem late, I'd be fine sending him to the stripe.

The Sun Devils are solid, but beatable.

Overall, it's tough to pin down Arizona State's identity. They were picked to finish in the bottom half of an extremely deep Pac 12, they have a pretty tight eight man rotation (all eight of which average between 6-14 PPG), and they slot pretty respectably in most team-wide statistics. Here's how the two squads shake down seven games into the season.

A&M (Conf rank) Statistic ASU (Conf rank)
82.8 (5th) PPG 76.9 (8th)
50% (2nd) FG % 43.9% (11th)
40.6% (2nd) 3PT % 29.8% (T-9th)
70% (4th) FT% 71.1% (4th)
38.4 (9th) Rebounds 42.4 (4th)
11.9 (9th) Off Reb. 14.7 (2nd)
19.9 (1st) Assists 13.9 (T-7th)
13.9 (13th) Turnovers 13.0 (4th)
7.5 (5th) Steals 5.57 (8th)
3.63 (13th) Blocks 2.86 (12th)

Offensively, we have the edge... but they probably have the edge on the glass. Neither squad can protect the rim at all, so that's pretty much a wash.

One final note: Vegas has A&M listed as a three-point road favorite today.


Make no mistake, a FGCU-level effort won't get it done in Tempe. But if we see the type of intensity, focus, and execution that we saw in the Bahamas, we'll come home with a solid non-conference win in the bag.

In short: Block out, protect the basketball, drop a few bombs, and get ready to take a piece outta the Big XII.