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Preview: #19 Texas A&M vs. Arkansas

SEC play opens with a Saturday home game against struggling Arkansas (January 2nd; 3:30pm; SEC Network; WatchESPN)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night's domination of Cal Poly put the finishing touches on an impressive 10-2 run through the non-conference campaign, and now the SEC conference slate beckons.

A&M has a pretty friendly opening to this year's gauntlet, as you can see below (SBNation SEC Power Ranking in parenthesis):

  • Saturday: Arkansas (12th)
  • Wednesday: @ Mississippi State (13th)
  • 1/9 (Sat): @ Tennessee (11th)
  • 1/12 (Tue): Florida (5th)
  • 1/16 (Sat): @ Georgia (7th)
  • 1/19 (Tue): LSU (8th)
  • 1/23 (Sat): Mizzou (14th)
  • 1/27 (Wed): @Arkansas (12th)

Seriously, look at that set up... there's only one game against a squad currently ranked in the top six (Florida), and that's at home. Now compare that to the middle portion of the schedule:

  • 1/30 (Sat): Iowa State (not in the SEC but #9th overall in the Coaches Poll)
  • 2/4 (Thu): @ Vanderbilt (4th)
  • 2/6 (Sat): South Carolina (3rd)
  • 2/10 (Wed): @ Alabama (9th)
  • 2/13 (Sat): @ LSU (8th)
  • 2/16 (Tue): Ole Miss (6th)
  • 2/20 (Sat): Kentucky (1st)

Yikes. A very good Iowa State squad comes to town, followed by six games against squads ranked no lower than 9th in the conference, including four of the top six.

The final four games are pretty easy on the eyes, though:

  • 2/24 (Wed): Mississippi State (13th)
  • 2/27 (Sat): @ Mizzou (14th)
  • 3/1 (Tues): @ Auburn (10th)
  • 3/5 (Sat): Vanderbilt (4th)

In short, the early schedule broke very nicely and we have a chance to get off to a great start tomorrow.

Let's break it down.

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This is not your father's Arkansas

Hell, it's not even your older brother's Arkansas. The tradition-rich basketball program stumbled to a 6-6 start this year, which includes bad losses to Akron and Mercer and "good" losses to just about every legitimate team they've faced. They haven't been blown out, but they haven't defeated anyone of note.

They still play at the same breakneck pace (1st in the SEC in scoring; 1st in FG attempted), but they haven't been able to cope with the loss of forward Bobby Portis (drafted 20th overall) and guard Michael Qualls (left early to turn pro, undrafted).

But the piggies can still shoot

It's not all about pace and philosophy in Fayeteville... this squad has always been built on great long range shooting, and this year's iteration is no different. Arkansas leads the conference in three point percentage, and they hold a substantial advantage over the Aggies from the charity stripe.

If we start the game ice cold from deep and continue our free throw struggles, this one could get dicey.

Here's a full look at the squads rankings to date:

Texas A&M (SEC Rank) Statistic Arkansas (SEC Rank)
79.7 (4th) Points Scored 84.7 (1st)
64.3 Points Against 75.7
48.4% (1st) Field Goal % 47.0% (T-5th)
38.0% (4th) Three Point % 42.2% (1st)
63.5% (13th) Free Throw % 72.7% (2nd)
39.2 (5th) Total Rebounds 38.9 (8th)
19.3 (1st) Assists 18.6 (2nd)
13.1 (10th) Turnovers 11.5 (4th)
7.67 (T-5th) Steals 7.67 (T-5th)
3.92 (12th) Blocks 5.67 (4th)


Tyler Davis is SEC Ready

Check out his last three games:

  • Cal Poly (18 points; 8 rebounds; 8-9 shooting)
  • Baylor (15 points; 5 rebounds; 6-6 shooting)
  • Kansas State (10 points; 5 rebounds; 5-5 shooting)

He leads the nation in field goal accuracy by almost five percentage points, shooting an absolutely insane 79.4% (54-68) on the season. He's playing great basketball, and his low post game will be key against a squad that prefers to run and gun. We should be in for another big game from Davis.

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Honestly, this should be the best of both worlds. Arkansas plays a really entertaining style of basketball, but they aren't up to their usual standard. We'll likely see plenty of points, a quick pace, and an ultimately comfortable victory for the good guys.

BTHO Arkansas