Saturday, December 01, 2007

Alabama Rewind / Arizona Look-Ahead

The excuses for untimely information just keep getting better and better. This time I was out of town on Thursday and Friday.

Quack, Quack, Quack. I know, I know, I sound like a duck.


On Wednesday night the Aggies put together a great all-around team effort and beat Alabama by a final score of 76-63 in front of only 10,328 people (clearly a "tickets sold" attendance number and not a "butts in the seats" attendance number). In fact, Reed Arena was so empty on Wednesday night for the Aggies' first home game against a "brand name" opponent this year that they did not even bother to open all of the concession stands. Sad, but hey, we are not here to complain about attendance. Let's talk real quick about that win and then look forward to their HUGE game at Arizona on Sunday afternoon.

Mark Turgeon's bunch laid down a very impressive overall team performance with really only one guy standing out above most everyone else. Donald Sloan put together the most complete game of his young career by leading the Aggies with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists in 31 minutes of play.

Sloan was VERY good all night long, and hopefully it was a sign of things to come and the sophomore guard will continue to get better week after week.

The only guy that did not have a "standard" night at the office was DeAndre Jordan. The big guy only scored 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in 16 minutes. I think his little dip in production was due to two things - 1.) Freshman Syndrome - Playing at this level of basketball with this type of intensity night in and night out will certainly start to wear on young guys, which will certainly add to seeing more peaks-and-valleys in their production, and 2.) I think the personnel that Alabama puts on the floor was just a bad match-up for Jordan. Most of Alabama's interior guys are undersized and play outside the paint and facing the basket. DeAndre is just too big and not quite quick enough to be able to get out and play effective defense on those types of players on the perimeter. I would not read too much into #12 having a quiet night.

The good news for you guys, the fans of this team, is that Turgeon's roster is so deep this year that he can call on guys like Bryan Davis and Junior Elonu to step in and be effective when the match-ups are not always in his favor. In fact, Elonu was a much better match-up to throw at the Alabama big men, and the sophomore responded very well in adding 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in 17 minutes of action.

Also, speaking of Bryan Davis, I can not stress to you guys enough what he has meant for this team so far this season. As we talked about after the Aggies' win over Washington in their NIT Season Tip-Off semifinal game, Davis continues to simply bust his tail every minute that he is on the floor, and what he does and what he means for this team will never be seen in highlight packages or in the boxscore every game.

All you have to do is watch Big #0 for about 2 or 3 minutes and you shake your head with the enthusiasm and energy that he brings to the floor. In 27 minutes of action on Wednesday night Davis added 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. He even grabbed 2 steals just for good measure.

Joe Jones (10 points), Dominique Kirk (14 points) and Josh Carter (13 points) also all had very good nights at the gym. Kirk and Carter got back on track from downtown in combining to make 5 of their 7 attempts from behind the three-point line.

I would also be remiss if I did not point out the awesome effort put forth by Alabama big man Richard Hendrix. I don't know why Hendrix is not playing linebacker for Nick Saban and the Alabama football team because this kid is as big as a house. He is big and strong, has good moves around the basket and a game that can extend as far out as 12 to 15 feet away from the rim. Hendrix also can create for himself off the dribble and is very active on both ends of the floor. I think the closest guy to compare him to (on the basketball court only) would be Charles Barkley. He's a little undersized but stronger than most guys and just finds a way to make plays. I came away very impressed.

OK, enough about Hendrix, if the Aggies continue to get solid all-around contributions like they got on Wednesday night and in both games in NYC (from both starters and reserves), they are going to be very tough to beat no matter who they are playing.

The one thing I am still waiting to see from this year’s bunch is how they will respond to adversity. Last year it was always Acie that pulled them out of a hole if need be. This year who will it be if an opponent gets the Aggies down and puts their backs against the wall?

Speaking of Aggie opponents - - The Aggies head to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats as part of the Big 12 / Pac 10 Hardwood Series on Sunday afternoon at 5:00 on FSN (check local listings).

The Wildcats are coming in with a 4-2 record on the season with losses at Virginia and at Kansas. Their loss to the Jayhawks last Sunday night was only by 4 points (76-72) in overtime, so do not for one minute think that the Wildcats are too terribly down this year. If you can go into Allen Fieldhouse and take KU to overtime, you can beat just about anybody in the country.

Despite being without head coach Lute Olson (personal leave) the wildcats are still scrappy, defend the ball with good pressure and can actually shoot the ball pretty well (51% overall on the season). Interim head coach Kevin O’Neill has done a great job with this group of kids coaching in Olson’s absence.

Leading the Arizona attack is yet another pre-season Top 50 Wooden Award candidate, sophomore Chase Budinger. Budinger is the 3rd Wooden-Watch player that the Aggies will have faced in their last 4 games (Jon Brockman, Washington / Richard Hendrix, Alabama / Chase Budinger, Arizona). Budinger, a 6'7" Sophomore, is averaging just over 18 points per game while grabbing 5 rebounds. His best game of the year came in the OT game at Kansas when he dropped 27 on the Jayhawks.

The other big gun that leads the Arizona attack is 6'3" freshman guard, Jerryd Bayless who averages nearly 19 points per game while leading the Wildcats with 28 total assists on the season.

Joining Bayless and Budinger in the starting lineup will be 6'4" senior guard Jawann McClellan (9.7 points, 4.0 rebounds) , 6'10" sophomore forward Jordan Hill (11.2 / 4.3) , and 6'11" senior center Kirk Walters (1.0 / 2.7).

The Arizona bench is VERY deep as they have 5 guys coming off the bench that all are averaging double-digit minutes on the season. The two primary guys coming off the bench are 6'3" senior guard Daniel Dillion (21 minutes per game) and 6'6" freshman forward Jamelle Horne (19.8 minutes per game).

One other thing to point out about the Arizona squad is that they have 3 guys on the roster this year from the Houston area:
- Jawann McClellan - Milby HS
- Fendi Onobun - Alief Taylor HS
- Nic Wise - Kingwood HS

Finally, I guess it is also worth pointing out that Aggie senior Beau Mulbach also has Arizona ties as he originally signed with Arizona and spent is freshman season in Tucson before ultimately transferring to A&M.

Alright, I hope that will give you guys a little more to look out for on Sunday evening.

OK - Well, I am really struggling with putting together a prediction for this game. My heart is telling me that the Aggies could win this game, but my head is telling me that they will likely lose a very close game.

Ah, screw it, let's go with the heart - Aggies win 69-68.

Carry on!


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