Better Know An Opponent: Texas A&M

This is going to have to serve as a mini-preview of Texas A&M as well, so buckle in.  The Aggies have had a very up-and-down run of it in their first SEC season, and come into the game at 6-9 in conference.  They look like so many SEC teams this season – just good enough to be interesting and fiesty (see also: LSU, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Arkansas), but not good enough to differentiate itself from the third-tier of the conference.

Team

Four Factors
USC O
A&M D
 
A&M O
USC D
 
NCAA
eFG
46.7
(257)
47.5
(136)
48.9
(151)
49.7
(219)
48.6
TO%
22.7
(302)
21.8
(74)
20.8
(221)
21.2
(115)
20.2
Oreb%
38.3
(18)
32.9
(223)
35.3
(64)
33.4
(245)
31.8
FTR
35.4
(183)
34.2
(130)
32.1
(266)
45.3
(329)
35.9
Adj. Pace
66.2
(169)
61.2
(327)
66.1
Shooting
USC O
A&M D
 
A&M O
USC D
 
NCAA
FT%
67.7
(231)
70.2
(141)
69.2
2P%
46.0
(236)
45.7
(111)
47.6
(172)
49.9
(261)
47.5
3P%
32.2
(244)
35.1
(103)
33.9
3PA%
32.2
(198)
36.2
(285)
26.4
(309)
31.1
(105)
33.0

A&M brings what constitutes an average SEC offense and SEC defense into the action on the evening, and they don’t have any overwhelming strengths or weaknesses, though there are some match-ups the Gamecocks can look to exploit.

For one, the Aggies will need to focus on keeping Carolina off the offensive glass.  While offensive rebounding hasn’t been as prolific in conference play (only 33.5 percent, which remember is also baked into that 38.3 percent rate you see above, which means the disparity is even starker) for the Gamecocks, they’ve been just at or above 35 percent in each of the last three games against relatively competent defensive rebounding teams, so this could be a game where we get back to breaking into the 40s on our OReb%.  Those are extra shots we could certainly benefit from, given our shooting woes.

While the numbers above make it look as if A&M may spend the afternoon picking our pocket, the Gamecocks continue to steadily improve in their ability to protect the basketball, posting a 20.9 percent turnover rate in SEC games.  The main issue for Carolina has come from shooting the basketball, as you can easily tell above.  They should be able to create a few extra possessions, but if they can’t score any of them, this game won’t be much different from others they’ve played recently (though if it’s anything like our Missouri game was offensive, we’ll have a good chance of leaving College Station with a victory).

For the Aggies, their offense doesn’t do anything particularly overwhelming – they don’t take a lot of 3s and they don’t often get to the line, but for all their focus on centering their offense on made 2PAS, they don’t do a great job of hitting them, clocking in at a pedestrian 47.6 percent rate.  Their main offensive uptick comes from crashing the offensive glass effectively, a habit they’ve been able to maintain through conference play.  While the Gamecocks have fallen back to par on offensive rebounding, their defensive rebounding has dropped off a cliff in SEC action – they’re only grabbing 65 percent of their opponents’ misses, good for 13th best in conference play.  If they give the Aggies a lot of extra opportunities, it’ll probably be too much to overcome.

On the other hand, Carolina could be well-placed to prevent A&M from ever getting shots to begin with – the Aggies aren’t particularly adept ball-handlers, and as we’ve noted here, the Gamecocks have done an increasingly better job of forcing turnovers as the season has worn on.  Their defensive TO% stands at 22.7 percent in conference play (good for fourth), and it will be an advantage they will need to press.

The Gamecocks will also be happy to see that A&M doesn’t do a great job of getting to the foul line.  Given our fouling issues throughout this season, a game where the other team has to do its work from the floor will be interesting to see, and if the Aggies shooting isn’t up to snuff, could lead to some opportunities for the Gamecocks to break away with a victory.

Individual

Texas A&M
%Min
%Poss
eFG%
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FTM-FTA
2PM-2PA
3PM-3PA
Elston Turner
86.5
25.7
51.7
1.7
9.3
16.3
13.3
75-91
110-227
66-177
Fabyon Harris
70
20.3
54.4
4.1
4.9
9.7
16.7
57-67
70-147
40-92
Ray Turner
56.8
23.6
50.8
11.2
21.8
1.5
18.6
62-99
98-193
0-0
J’Mychal Reese
69
18.9
42.1
1.6
9.3
15
26.6
27-36
56-145
18-52
Kourtney Roberson
59.2
16.6
60.2
13.4
22
6.8
18.4
32-59
80-133
0-0
Alex Caruso
58.7
19.5
43
4.3
12.8
29.8
30.7
29-47
42-89
9-40
Andrew Young
31.3
18
37.2
10.5
17.1
4
23.1
22-31
29-78
0-0
Jordan Green
27.6
18
35.9
4
9.7
18.7
26.3
17-25
17-41
4-23
Jarod Jahns
33.1
9.3
43.4
8.3
9.7
4.5
22.1
13-18
15-31
1-7

The Aggies are led 6’5″ senior Elston Turner, who as you can see here plays a ton of minutes and uses a ton of possessions.  Despite this, he does so at a very impressive level of efficiency – his eFG is in the top 500 and his turnover rate is 202nd in the NCAA, all the more impressive when you remember he’s not just a catch-and-shoot player.  He’s going to be the focus of the Aggies’ offense, and so matching up on him may well be the difference (not unlike Caldwell-Pope of Georgia, you can either let him get his and stop everyone else, or decide to live-and-die by stopping him).

The Aggies primarily play six guys, and the other two who really get it done offensively are Fabyon Harris and Kourtney Robinson.  Point guard Harris is a bigger part of the offense, as he uses about a fifth of A&M’s possessions, and much like Elston Turner, hits his shots at a very efficient rate.  That said, he’s got a surprisingly low assist rate for a ball-handler (only 9.7 percent), which leaves A&M players to create a lot of their own offense – their 50.2 percent assist/FGM ratio is just 258th in the nation.

Kourtney Robinson brings the post presence for Texas A&M, hitting shots at an eFG of over 60 percent and rebounding ferociously on both sides of the ball.  He’s normally either joined in the post (or replaced) by sixth man Ray Turner, a 6’9″ senior who doesn’t shoot quite as effectively but rebounds about as hard.  For what he lacks in scoring from the field, Turner nearly makes up for it by an ability to get to the foul line, posting a personal FTR of 51.3.  It’ll be him and Robinson (whose FTR clocks in at 44.4) who could give the Gamecocks trouble from the line.

The other guard that normally runs out for A&M’s starting five is J’Mychal Reese.  The freshman is one of the weak spots of the Aggie offense, not hitting shots at a particularly high clip and turning the ball over on over a quarter of the possessions he uses.  For a small guy, he’s gets a surprising amount of his offense from inside the three-point line.

Alex Caruso rounds out the Aggies starting five, a 6’5″ wing player who is a lot like Reese in that he doesn’t bring a whole lot of offense to the table.  While he has a much higher assist rate than Reese, he gives a lot of it back through an incredibly high turnover rate of over 30 percent.  However, turnovers are a two-way street for Reese – his steal percentage of 5.4 percent is 7th in the nation.

Prediction

KenPom: 66-56 L (15%)

This is actually a game where I could see the Gamecocks doing some damage.  A&M doesn’t dominate in the interior like some of our other opponents, which means the big advantages a lot of teams press against the Gamecocks won’t be there.  I won’t go so far as to predict a victory, but it’s a bit like the Ole Miss game in that it’s a game that looks winnable if things go right.  For the Gamecocks, “things” this year have all too often been shooting – both in making shots and preventing made shots.  It sounds simple because it is, and it’ll likely be the determining factor in the game on Saturday.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
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2 Responses to Better Know An Opponent: Texas A&M

  1. Gary says:

    I wish I could be optimistic about our chances in this game. But what we have done previously in the SEC this season prevents me. If USC wins, I will be very surprised. Hopefully, we will leave Texas having made a good impression on Chad Frazier, who is visiting A&M this weekend, and who we are trying to recruit.

  2. Walter Early says:

    Really appreciate the perspective. I didn’t have high hopes for the team this season so I’m not too disappointed if you exclude the rest of our basketball history since about 1975. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal. GO GAMECOCKS! Beat A&M!!

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