Stopping at College Station: The Balance of Texas A&M

Posted by Shane McNichol on February 4th, 2016

So much has been made of the parity in college basketball this season. So-called top teams continue to lose to lesser competition; home courts haven’t been defended well; and prognosticating the future has become an exercise in futility. As we inch closer to March, it’s easy to wonder what sort of teams are capable of surviving this climate. A case can be made for any number of teams that can get hot for a month, riding good shooting to a string of consecutive wins. Oklahoma or Villanova are two such squads, for example, that could ride hot shooters all the way to the Final Four. Or maybe Louisville or West Virginia, teams that rely on pressure defense, can put together enough stops to find their way to Houston. Anything seems possible.

Texas A&M (USA Today Images)

Texas A&M Closed Out Iowa State in Impressive Fashion Last Weekend (USA Today Images)

Either of those avenues to the sport’s final weekend could work out, but the most likely survivors are usually the teams that can employ a variety of ways to win — teams with balance in their rotations and devoid of major weaknesses. There may not be a team that better encapsulates this concept than Texas A&M. The Aggies have been among the most consistent teams in America all season long, losing only three games to good competition along the way (Syracuse; Arizona State; Arkansas). They are 10-3 against the KenPom top 100 and have lost only once since early December. Their success begins with a defense that ranks second nationally, thanks to very good defensive turnover and free throw rates. Few things prove more reliable in March than the ability to generate stops, and four of Texas A&M’s last five opponents have failed to reach 65 points — most notably an Iowa State team that plays fast (37th nationally) and ranks seventh in the country in offensive efficiency.

On the other end of the floor, Texas A&M has been nearly as good. A balanced attack has been the key, with the Aggies sharing the ball as well as anyone (recording an assist on nearly 70 percent of their makes). Head coach Billy Kennedy plays two point guards, Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins, often at the same time, who happen to rank fourth and sixth in the SEC in assists. Jalen Jones and Danuel House, both averaging more than 15 points per night, are the most dangerous scorers, but the team as a whole has shown the ability to find the hot hand with each member of the eight-man rotation recording a game of 15 points or more. In a tournament setting with less preparation time, one or more of these players can slip through a scouting report and catch an opponent off guard.

Heading into tonight’s game at Vanderbilt, the 7-1 Aggies sit atop the SEC standings with a notion toward becoming the first school other than Kentucky or Florida to capture the regular season crown since 2009. If that happens, they would be in the conversation for one of the four top seed lines on Selection Sunday. With a ten-gallon hat full of tricks, Texas A&M’s sights should be set directly on playing in the Final Four in their home state. And although no team is safe in this wildest of seasons, Kennedy’s team is making the case that they are a team worth trusting.

Shane McNichol (30 Posts)

Shane McNichol is a national columnist for Rush The Court. He is also the founder, editor, and writer at and has contributed to and Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.

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