Arizona vs Texas A&M
Year one in the post-Billy Gillispie era is going better than expected for the Texas A&M Aggies. With new head coach Mark Turgeon running the show at A&M, the Aggies off are to a 7-0 start for the fourth straight season and have shown the nation that they again plan to make a major push for the Big 12 title.
For A&M, the name of the game is consistency. With forward Joseph Jones leading the way for the Aggies, the team has found a new number one to take over the leadership role that point guard Acie Law IV held last year. Jones has been nothing short of spectacular in the early season while earning the MVP award at the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season-Tip-Off in New York, while also averaging 11 points and almost 5 rebounds per game.
Jones’ counterpart, freshman center DeAndre Jordan, has been as good as billed when he signed with the Aggies earlier this year. Jordan is averaging almost a double-double for the Aggies with nine points and close to eight rebounds per game. The only knock on Jordan early has been his absymal free throw percentage–an unheard of 16 percent from the line.
The Aggie backcourt is considered one of the best in the Big 12–if not the country. The biggest surprise might be the sudden emergence of senior Dominique Kirk at the point guard position. Turgeon made it clear that Kirk had a lot to handle moving from shooting guard to the point when Law left. Kirk, however, has done a more than capable job, averaging almost 10 points and four assists per game. Throw in sharpshooting forward Josh Carter on the wing and a cast of role players on the bench, and you have one of the deepest teams in college basketball.
For Arizona, the season started off with the absence of longtime head coach Lute Olsen from the bench. Olsen, who has been a staple on the sidelines for the Wildcats, hasn’t coached a single game for the team since he took a leave of absence from the team on November 4th. He recently returned to practice this week, but it still remains to be seen when he will be back on the sidelines.
With Olsen missing, the team has done an admirable job. Sophomore Chase Budinger is the player that makes the Wildcats tick. Budinger, who was known last season more for his high-flying dunks and speed, has turned into an all-around player this year, averaging 18 points, five rebounds and almost four assists per game. Add to the mix highly-touted freshman guard Jerryd Bayless (18 points/4.7 assists), and you have what could be one of the best young back courts in the nation.
The Wildcats have yet to see an immediate impact player in the post, but they’re hoping sophomore forward Jordan Hill (11 ppg/4 reb) can continue his recent strong play to help open up the perimeter game.
The Arizona Wildcats currently hold a 5-0 series lead between these teams, but those Wildcats never had the pleasure of playing against a Texas A&M team with this much firepower.
It may sound like a crazy statement to some, but Texas A&M hasn’t been this deep at every position in school history. If you look at every team in past years, there was always a hole if someone got into foul trouble. However, this year you have role players that all but squash any doubt the A&M couldn’t hang with the best teams in the country.
Sure this game is in Tuscon, but with Kirk and Derrick Roland covering Bayless and Buddinger, the Aggies should have more than enough on the outside to force the Wildcats to beat them from the paint. And considering Arizona doesn’t have a guy that can matchup with Jones or Jordan, the Aggies should have a field day in the post.
A&M gives the tournament committee another reason why they’re one of the best teams in the country with an emphatic road victory over a solid Wildcat team.