#5 in the AP and Coaches poll.
#4 in ESPN's Power Rankings.
#2-seed in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology.
No other team in Texas A&M basketball history has reached those heights during any season. Plenty of basketball remains, but to be at this point through 19 games has changed the perception from "Can they make the tournament?" to "How far can this team go?" And after a loss by South Carolina this past Saturday, the Aggies now have a 2-game cushion in the SEC standings. Tonight, A&M looks to keep their distance in a rematch against Arkansas.
The Razorbacks are the middle of a 3-game losing skid, but 2 of their losses have been by a combined 5 points. The last time these two played, Jalen Jones scored a career-high 28 points and the Ags outscored the Hogs by 21 in the first half in route to a 92-69 victory. While A&M put their last contest away pretty early, Arkansas still loves to play and score fast in Mike Anderson's "40 Minutes of Hell" system. If the Ags repeat the cold streak they endured against Missouri, it could make a rough night in Fayetteville.
Here are some factors to look out for.
Return of Tyler Davis
Last Saturday revealed just how important this talented freshman is to the Aggie basketball team. Without Davis in the lineup, A&M had more 1-and-done possessions on offense, and Jalen Jones really provided the only inside scoring. A&M embraces the outside shot, averaging over 22 3-point attempts per game, but Davis's ability to gain position inside the paint gives the offense an extra dimension that's made them a top-5 team.
Head Coach Billy Kennedy said he expects the freshman to be back out on the court tonight, and they will need him to match up against Arkansas's Moses Kingsley. The 6-10 junior averages 16.4 points a game and 9 rebounds a game.
It deserves credit that in this outstanding winning streak, Texas A&M has playing championship-level defense. Only Tennessee can say they have scored more than 70 points against the maroon and white, and the last 3 opponents have scored an average of less than 52 points. This stretch during conference play propelled the Ags to top-25 status in points allowed with their opponents averaging less than 40% field-goal percentage and 31.5% from beyond the arc.
Without the play on the defensive end, A&M's games against Mississippi State, Florida, and maybe Missouri have a different outcome. When the shots don't fall, A&M stays active and does let up on defense.
The "40 Minutes of Hell" style of play will result in more points scored due to more possessions, but if the Ags hold the Razorbacks to the 60's or low 70's, there should be enough firepower on offense to produce a similar result to their last matchup.
Prediction: Continued Emergence of Admon Gilder
The past couple of games, Gilder has looked more comfortable and aggressive when comes out on the court. In a back and forth 1st half against LSU, Gilder's driving ability on offense kept A&M in the game while the rest of the lineup struggled to find a rhythm.
Against Missouri, Gilder did not have best game (5 pts on 2-7 shooting), but he did not back off and continued to put pressure on the Tiger defense. With the fast pace that will come with playing Arkansas, look out for the talented freshman to take advantage in transition and keep the Razorbacks's defense on their heels.
Who: Arkansas Razorbacks (9-10, 3-4 in SEC)
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, AK
TV: ESPN U