Big XII Confidential (Week 3)
Sound the alarms in College Station, Texas, because the Texas A&M Aggies are currently in panic mode.
After two blowout losses last week to Texas Tech and Kansas State on the road, the Aggies need to take a hard look in the mirror to figure out what the heck is going wrong.
A&M head coach Mark Turgeon clearly isn’t blaming the road woes on a lack of senior leadership. And why should he? The team lost glue guy Acie Law IV, as well as forwards Marlon Pompey and Antanas Kavaliauskas, but they retained Joseph Jones, Dominique Kirk and Josh Carter among others.
“We’re a young team, but I don’t want to make excuses,” Turgeon said. “Our guys have got to grow up. We are not losing because we’re young. A lot of teams are playing a lot of young people.”
Turgeon is dead-on when he says that a lot of teams are playing younger players. The same Kansas State team that beat A&M by 21 points on Saturday are currently being led by Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, two freshmen who seem to play without fear.
Therein lies the main issue for A&M: Fear. They’ve got it; their opponents don’t.
The Aggies needs to go back to their roots to rekindle the drive and dominance that made them such a force last season on the road. They need to understand that Acie and the rest of the team that led the Aggies to within one bucket of the Elite Eight isn’t going to be coming back to make anymore big shots. In the end the team just needs to grow-up.
It’s going to be tough. When you lose a player of Acie Law’s pedigree, you’re going to go through rough patches. But to watch the Aggies get embarrassed by two teams they have no business losing to makes you see that the team doesn’t have the confidence.
Maybe the early season road loss to Arizona killed their confidence, or maybe it’s the fact that A&M played only one true road game before going into conference play. But regardless of the excuses, the Aggies just need to get back to playing like a confident team.
I don’t know what it’s going to take for them to get back to playing with that swagger, but if Turgeon can’t figure it out soon, the Aggies might find themselves on the outside looking in.
Big 12 Player of the Year candidates (After Week 2):
1. Michael Beasley, F (Kansas State): 21 points in a 21-point blowout of Texas A&M means Beasley gets to stay at the top and enjoy the view.
2. D.J. Augustin, PG (Texas): Made some big shots in victories against Oklahoma State and Colorado.
3. Henry Dugat, G (Baylor): Makes the biggest push up the rankings this week after two huge wins over Oklahoma State and Nebraska. In his last three games Dugat has 57 points, including 19 on the road against Nebraska. Dugat is one of the main reasons why Baylor is looking like a legitimate tournament team.
4. Brandon Rush, G (Kansas): Breaks right into the top five after a solid 13 point 9 rebound performance against rival Missouri. Rush has been lying low on the list after coming back from a knee injury, but he looks to be gathering steam every week.
5. Joseph Jones, F (Texas A&M): The numbers were solid (23 points/14 boards in two games), but the big road losses to Kansas State and Texas Tech drop Jones down the list.
Dropped out: Darrell Arthur, F (Kansas)
Notables: Curtis Jerrells (Baylor), A.J. Abrams (Texas), Darrell Arthur (Kansas)
Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidates (Week 2):
1. Beasley: Could we just hand him the trophy right now?
2. Bill Walker, F (Kansas State): Walker won’t win the award with Beasley on his team, but 41 points in two games means he can enjoy being the second best freshman in the league this week.
3. LaceDarius Dunn, G (Baylor): 12 points in 17 minutes against Nebraska, and 13 points in 21 minutes against Oklahoma State mean Dunn is back in the picture.
4. DeAndre Jordan, C (Texas A&M): 5 points and 6 rebounds against Kansas State isn’t going to make anyone take notice. Early foul trouble is also turning into a big concern.
5. Blake Griffin, F (Oklahoma): Griffin’s MCL sprain means he won’t be back for three weeks. The injury damaged what was turning out to be a stellar season.
Top 5 teams in the Big 12 (rankings will be updated every Tuesday):
1. Kansas (18-0, 3-0 Big 12): Big win on the road against Missouri, 76-70. Should get to 20 wins this week with victories over Iowa State and Nebraska at home.
Tournament bound? Without a doubt.
2. Texas (15-3, 2-1): Home win against Colorado on Saturday was a must. Road win last night at Oklahoma State was just the kind of victory the team needed to grab some much needed momentum.
Tournament bound? No need to worry about the ‘Horns right now. They’re in.
3. Baylor (15-2, 3-0): A huge road win against Nebraska means Baylor is a serious contender for a tournament slot. Beating A&M this week on the road would be just the victory they need to solidify their spot. Also have a critical home game against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Tournament bound? They’re in right now; however, they need to keep winning in the worst way.
4. Texas A&M (15-3, 1-2): Big losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State leave reason for concern. The biggest question is if they can win on the road. Saturday’s contest at Oklahoma State should go a long way to answering that question. But before they look towards Oklahoma State, the Aggies need to make sure they take care of business at home against Baylor.
Tournament bound? Still in, but the Aggies need to win both games this week to get back on track.
5. Kansas State (12-4, 2-0): Huge win against Texas A&M was just what the team was looking for. The only thing missing is a big road victory over a ranked. The home victories are great, but they still have some work to do.
Tournament bound? Blowout win over A&M shows me that Kansas State really wants a spot in the tournament. Still need to keep winning after blowing some non-conference games.
Best of the Rest: Oklahoma (13-5, 1-2), Iowa State (12-6, 2-1), Texas Tech (10-7, 1-2)
Game of the week:
Baylor (15-2, 3-0) at Texas A&M (15-3, 1-2) — Wednesday, 8:00 pm EST
I hate using the word “must win” so early in the season, but for the Texas A&M Aggies, that is just what this game is.
After looking nothing short of pedestrian in losses to Kansas State and Texas Tech, the Aggies desperately need to find a way back into the Big 12 picture. A win against the Bears would be a quality victory (yes, I said quality). And considering how badly the Aggies need a win, they’d better make the most of this game.
Baylor on the other hand is enjoying a resurgence under head coach Scott Drew. With guards Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat leading the way, the Bears have downed Notre Dame and South Carolina on the road, as well as Nebraska last week.
Regardless of their current play, the Aggies own Baylor at Reed Arena. The win should be just the medicine A&M faithful need to wash away to memories of last week.
Final Score Prediction: Texas A&M 66, Baylor 58