Earlier this week, our good friend Gigthem08 listed out some key reasons behind the mid-season swoon the Aggie men have been under the past couple of weeks. Tonight, we'll see if the slide continues or if the maroon and white can recover in the first of a back-to-back road trip against the Alabama Crimson Tide. While the Tide are 10th in the SEC with a 4-6 conference record, they come into tonight's matchup ranked 52nd in RPI and have won 3 of their last 4.
Both squads have plenty of stakes at hand. For Bama, it is chance to insert themselves into the NCAA tournament conversation, while the Ags look to escape their funk and hold on to their conference championship aspirations.
Here are some keys for A&M to right their ships tonight.
Jalen Jones must return to form.
It's no coincidence that this Aggie skid has also correlated with a frustrating slump Jalen Jones currently is experiencing. In the last 3 losses, Jones has shot 18.5% and made only 2 of 11 3-point attempts. That's, um... not good.
The senior looked to bounce back a little bit against South Carolina (14 pts on 4-7 shooting) but struggled with foul trouble throughout the contest. During A&M's 10-win streak, Jones was not just a top scorer, but had some in college basketball making a case he should be considered for SEC Player of the Year. That conversation has come and gone, but it cannot be expressed enough how important his production means to the fate of A&M's season. He needs to get back the dynamic and efficient force on offense that led the Aggies to top-5 status.
Anthony Collins also must return to form.
Obviously the USF transfer doesn't light up the scoreboard, but his poise and high basketball IQ played a major role to A&M's success on offense. During the slide though, we've seen several odd turnovers and lack of assists from Collins followed by an uncharacteristic 10 shot attempts against South Carolina that did not have great results. The senior has looked out of rhythm and it's shown in the slide in production from A&M's offense.
When Collins is on his game, he opens up opportunities for the rest of the offense and finds guys right where they need to be. He's been an important addition and key to the Aggies's success so far this season. They will rely on his calm and control to help survive the rest of the defining stretch of the schedule.
Prediction: The Defense will Step Up
The big topic of late has been the recent disappearance of the A&M defense. The lack of close outs on 3-point shots crippled the Aggies against Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Writers have harped on it and team has even admitted it's been a point of concern. It's very possible the trend can continue tonight, but a weakness for Alabama plays into one of A&M's biggest strengths on defense: turnovers. The Tide averages 14 turnovers a game, and the Ags thrive on jumping passing lanes and getting points in transition.
Look for Alex Caruso to be amped up on the defensive end and this squad to want to redeem themselves for the past couple of weeks.
Who: Alabama Crimson Tide
Where: Coleman Coliseum - Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TV: SEC Network