#6 / 7 Texas A&M at Nebraska
Saturday February 10th
FSN – Texas and Nebraska markets only
(Before we get to Saturday’s game, I do not know if you guys saw it or not, but legendary Aggie coach Shelby Metcalf passed away yesterday in College Station. Metcalf was the winningest coach in the history of the SWC and led the Aggies as their head coach for 27 seasons from 1963 to 1990.
Metcalf and Gillispie became very good friends in Gillispie’s three years in College Station, and Gillispie was instrumental in putting together the first annual Shelby Metcalf Classic this year to honor the former coach.
I am not old enough to remember or to have appreciated Metcalf when he was in his prime, but I certainly know that that he was beloved by many people throughout the game of basketball.)
The Aggies travel to Lincoln on Saturday night to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a game pitting Gillispie against another one of his good friends - - Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler.
Sadler was named head coach at Nebraska when former coach Barry Collier left in the offseason to take the AD post at Butler.
Doc Sadler came from UTEP, where he served as one of Gillispie’s assistants. Sadler was named the head coach of the Miners in 2004 when Gillispie left for A&M. Sadler has also served as an assistant under former OSU coach Eddie Sutton and former Texas Tech coach James Dickey.
OK – About the Cornhuskers. They are a funny team. They can look really good at times - - wins at Missouri and at Texas Tech and a one point home loss to Texas. They can also look really bad at times - - blowout losses to Kansas and at Oklahoma.
All of that said, they have been playing much better over their last couple of games since their embarrassing “big Monday” loss to Kansas. In that game they fell behind 39-6 early and gave up a 27-0 run to the Jayhawks.
Since then they have rebounded nicely by going on the road to beat both Missouri and Texas Tech in back-to-back games. Coming back home after a couple of road wins will have the Huskers feeling pretty good about themselves and I think they will come out with really good energy.
The Huskers are currently 14-8 overall and sit at 3-5 in the league which is only good enough for 8th place.
Look, the bottom line is that any win on the road in this league is going to be tough and you only have to work that much harder. I know that is a proverbial statement and we say it all the time, but I can not emphasize enough how important it is to steal as many games on the road as you can.
The above statement about going on the road becomes that much more important when you look at the Aggies’ remaining road games and you see places like Stillwater, Norman and Austin still to come on the schedule.
This game has also become that much more important so that you do not undo all of the goodwill you are receiving from the national media and the big “48 hours” you had last Saturday and Monday with the wins at Kansas and against Texas.
Finally, you should all also be very happy that the Rockets, Spurs, Mavericks and Stars are all off on Saturday night because the game will be broadcast on FSN in all Texas markets.
There you have it – let’s take a quick look at the matchups.
Doc Sadler has had a little bit of a rotating door at the back end of his starting lineup using multiple combinations all season long. He seems to have finally settled on four guys that have all started the last three games with the 5th position being any one of four guys.
Considering the fact that the Huskers are 2-1 over their last three games I would expect to see those 4 in the lineup again on Saturday but who knows.
The funny thing about this year’s Nebraska team is that they have one of the only true centers in the league and then a boat load of guards, most of whom are very small.
Aggie coach Billy Gillispie shares a friendly moment with Acie Law on Monday night. (AP/Paul Zoeller)The anchor of Sadler’s group is 6’11” Aleks Maric, a 270 pound junior who originally hails from Sydney, Australia. Maric is one of the top players in the league and is averaging almost 17 points and 8 rebounds per game.
I would look for Joe, AK, Davis and Pompey to pound on Maric all night. I am not the smartest guy around, but I doubt Maric will respond very well to the Aggies pressure on the interior.
After Maric, the next 7 guys in the Nebraska rotation are all guards, none of whom are taller than 6’4”.
I do not know what Sadler will do in order to offset the size of the Aggies’ frontline inside. He has a couple of 6’7” guys on his roster but neither of them ever plays. There is also 6’8” freshman Chris Balham who may see more than his per-game average of 5 minutes.
If Sadler has someone 6’3” or 6’4” matched up on either AK or Joe, they should have a heyday inside.
I guess Sadler could throw a zone at the Aggies and collapse multiple guys inside in an effort to slow down the Aggies’ big guys inside, but then you are selling out to the perimeter and I am not sure that is a good idea either.
The primary ball handling duties for the Huskers will rest with Charles Richardson Jr., a 5’9” senior who averages 8.1 points and 5.7 assists per game.
I would look for Acie and Richardson to go head-to-head on most possessions, and Acie should be able to dominate Richardson if for no other reason than on size alone.
Nebraska’s best perimeter shooter is 6’4” freshman Ryan Anderson who averages 10.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting a salty 47.9% behind the arc.
I would look for Kirk to pick up Anderson in an effort to limit his touches on the outside.
The final guard that is a constant in Sadler’s lineup is Marcus Perry, a 6’2” senior that adds 9.3 points per game.
Perry is an interesting player. He has played in 18 games and logged 426 minutes this season. In those 426 minutes he has only found his way to the free throw line 10 times.
Even better, he has made all 10 attempts. Needless to say, I do not think Marcus is a very aggressive player while on offense.
Depending on who Sadler trots out on Saturday, I would probably look for either AK or Joe (whoever is not on Maric) to pick up Perry.
The 5th starter and most of the bench minutes will likely come from a group of the following:
Jay-R Strowbridge a 6’0” freshman who is averaging 4 points and 16 minutes per game. He is not like J.R. from the TV show Dallas; this is Jay-R, the point guard from Nebraska.
Sek Henry a 6’3” freshman guard who chips in 7.3 points per game while averaging 24.5 minutes per night. Henry’s best game came back in December when he scored 20 in a Nebraska win at Houston.
Jamel White is a sophomore who clocks in at 6’3”. White is their most consistent scoring threat off the bench (or as the 5th starter) and averages 9.6 points per game. White has scored in double digits 9 times this season.
Finally we have Paul Velander a 6’2” sophomore who averages just less than 12 minutes per game. Velander averages 3.7 points per contest.
I think you will primarily see Josh Carter pick up whoever is on the court out of that group, but obviously any of the Aggie guards can match up pretty favorably with the guys in the Nebraska backcourt.
OK – There you have it – a quick look at the Cornhuskers and hopefully a better idea of what to expect on Saturday night.
The Aggie Hoops Report’s Game Outcome Prediction -
Texas A&M Aggies – 74
Nebraksa Cornhuskers - 61