Parity has been a constant theme this season in college basketball. Each week, another top-10 team seems to be knocked down since the beginning of conference play. But as the top dogs continuously trip up, Texas A&M keeps on winning and has itself among the top-10 for the first time in nearly a decade.
After dismantling 2nd-place LSU in front of Reed Arena's largest crowd, Texas A&M hoops officially has caught the attention of the Aggie fan base. Today's matchup against the woeful Missouri Tigers will draw a second straight sell out, and it's already been announced that no more seats are available for the next home game against Iowa State. For the first time all season, the fan base as well as the college basketball world is taking notice of the Aggies.
But with notoriety comes a bigger target on A&M's back and getting the A-game from every SEC opponent, starting with a Missouri squad desperate for anything good to happen for their basketball team. Here are some keys to look out for today's matchup.
It's a Trap! ... Maybe not.
A popular storyline for situations like these (team on a hot streak vs. a team on a not-so-hot streak) is the ever fearful "trap game." After a big-time victory on ESPN, A&M fits the bill for a potential letdown against a struggling Missouri team that's tempting to look over.
With this roster venturing through uncharted territory (top-10 SEC favorites), observers could see this as the classic situation where the notoriety leads to complacency and lack of focus. It's understandable, and while this Aggie squad has not experienced being in the spotlight like this, they are only a couple of weeks removed from surviving 3 near-upsets in a row. After dominating Arkansas in their conference opener, A&M came within a few a seconds from being upset by Mississippi State who is still looking for their first SEC victory. Next, the Ags needed a furious comeback to overcome Tennessee at home. Then lastly, Florida stood toe-to-toe and took A&M down to the wire at Reed.
This team has endured a variety of tests all year and has a senior class that most likely doesn't want to squander what will be their one and only NCAA Tournament appearance (except for Anthony Collins, who has one appearance from his freshmen year at South Florida). Of course any can happen in college basketball, but Texas A&M still only has a 2-game lead in the SEC standings and doesn't look like they have mentality to take it easy on any given game. Missouri has shown signs of improvement (battled South Carolina to only a 9-point loss, lost by 3 to UGA), but with another sold out Reed Arena and a golden opportunity at an SEC Title at hand, Texas A&M will not take this game for granted.
De-Fense! *Clap, Clap* De-Fense!
The past two games have arguably been A&M's best defensive performances of the season. The Aggie defense gave Georgia zero access into the paint, followed by smothering LSU and giving fits to the #1 NBA prospect in the nation, Ben Simmons.
Missouri averages just 68.6 points a game and has only 2 players whose ppg average is in the double-digits. A&M has the length in the backcourt and overall athleticism that if they simply don't get lazy and play they're game, then Mizzou will have a tough scoring points. One of the Aggies's best qualities is there tenacity and never-ending effort to create turnovers and turn them to easy transition points. If they maintain the same aggression, they could put this game away early.
Prediction: A Big Game for DJ Hogg
Tuesday night, the spotlight belonged to Jalen Jones and the freshmen duo of Tyler Davis and Admon Gilder. Jones made a 20 pt/6 reb performance look routine, and Davis/Gilder looked like they turned a corner and stepped up when the lights shined brightest. Getting a little lost in the shuffle is highly touted freshmen, DJ Hogg, who despite having the best shooting stroke on the team just can't seem to hit the bottom of the net. Tuesday, Hogg impressed by not shying away from guarding Ben Simmons as well as hitting a big-time three when A&M started to take control of the game.
The freshman has yet to have a true breakout game, but he has all the tools to become an elite SEC and eventually have a future in the NBA. Missouri's backcourt does not sport much height (of the 4 guards who average more than 15 minutes, 3 are 6'1 or less), and should give Hogg an easy shooting and rebounding advantage. Watch for the 6'8'' guard to remind Reed Arena why he was a Top-35 recruit in the nation.
Who: Missouri Tigers (8-10, 1-4)
Where: Reed Arena
TV: SEC Network