Two teams with their eyes on a conference title meet up Saturday in College Station. The game is on ESPN2 at Noon.
MISSOURI: The No. 15 Tigers, to this point in the season, have stayed true to their typical form. They are unapologetically aggressive on defense, allowing for occassional easy transition baskets in an effort to force turnovers. Largely, they’ve been successful, building a 15-2 record.But under Mike Anderson, the Tigers have usually played considerably at home. And they’ve also played considerably better against most teams outside of Texas A&M. Last year in Columbia, A&M won to end the Tigers’ 32-game home winning streak.
But that doesn’t matter so much. What matters is this year’s Aggies are well-balanced and talented. They likely won’t make many sloppy errors, even faced with Mizzou’s full-court pressure. Khris Middleton is the leading scorer but A&M has plenty of other sources for offense, with four players averaging at least nine points per game.
Missouri scores a lot of points in transition but might have difficulty operating in the halfcourt, just like OSU did.
TEXAS A&M: No doubt about it, the No. 14 Aggies look like a primary challenger to Kansas’ reign this season. They easily dispatched OU to open conference play, and then pummeled a formidable Oklahoma State team Wednesday, 71-48. Saturday they host Mizzou in their toughest game of the season so far.
Wednesday, the Aggies only had 11 turnovers, a performance they need to repeat to avoid making Missouri’s strategy work. They will face better guards than than they have in recent games, namely Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon and Kim English.
At this point, Marcus Denmon has established himself the first priority for an opposing defense. As long as he shoots 50% from 3-point range, he cannot be left open. MU will shoot 3s, and if Dixon or English can get some space offensively, Missouri will stay in the game.
Another interesting matchup to watch is how A&M’s bigger players (Middleton and David Loubeau) deal with Ricardo Ratliffe. He is not flashy but generally effective inside. The Aggies did a good job guarding Marshall Moses despite his double-double, because his work couldn’t keep OSU in the game.
Each team has an opportunity here to face higher level Big 12 competition. Missouri was able to grind out a tough win against Nebraska, and will probably have to create substantial halfcourt offense to win. Texas A&M hasn’t lost since Thanksgiving, though playing Missouri is different than playing many other teams.
Texas A&M wins by about 10 (something like 77-67) and establishes itself as Team No. 2 in the league, for now.