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Arkansas vs Texas A&M Preview and Miss State Recap: Old Friends

The Hogs host the Aggies in a pivotal game before Saturday's showdown at Kentucky.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Hogs found a way to win. That's really all that needs to be said about the Mississippi State game. The Bulldogs are awful, but not as awful as we thought they'd be back in December and they are very scrappy, and they almost scrapped their way to an upset.

Arkansas Miss State
Points 65 61
Efficiency 0.93 0.87
Floor % 47.14% 45.71%
Effective FG % 37.96% 44.34%
Two FG % 41.03% 44.19%
Three FG % 20.00% 30.00%
Offensive Rebound % 37.14% 51.61%
Turnover % 20.00% 32.86%
Assists : Turnovers 0.71 0.30

Mississippi State's awful ballhandling did them in in Starkville, just as it had in Fayetteville. Arkansas moved to 3-2 in SEC play when being outshot from the field, which is pretty incredible. The Hogs are 8-1 when outshooting the opponent (only loss: Florida). Mississippi State's 51.6 percent offensive rebounding rate isn't overly concerning, considering that at least six of those were recoveries of shots blocked by Arkansas.

Arkansas possession efficiency score
BALLHANDLERS Points Off. Rebs Steals FG Attempts FT Attempts Turnovers Score
Rashad Madden 16 0 1 9 5 4 1.10
Anton Beard 11 1 1 4 6 1 1.63
SHOOTERS Points Off. Rebs Steals FG Attempts FT Attempts Turnovers Score
Michael Qualls 14 0 0 11 7 1 0.90
Anthlon Bell 0 0 0 2 0 1 -1.00
Manuale Watkins 0 0 1 2 0 1 0.33
FORWARDS Points Off. Rebs Steals FG Attempts FT Attempts Turnovers Score
Bobby Portis 13 4 2 10 6 2 1.27
Alandise Harris 0 0 0 5 0 0 -1.00
Jacorey Williams 7 1 2 7 2 1 1.11
Moses Kingsley 4 3 0 4 5 0 1.08

Like many others, when Ky Madden was being lambasted by Arkansas fans for his mistakes at Clemson, I guessed that a time would come when Hog fans were grateful for Madden bailing the team out in a road game. Our own Scottie Bordelon pointed out that Madden's play was key to winning road games. Well, this was it. Madden led the Hogs with 16 points and a respectable 1.1 possession efficiency score. Portis' strong second half helped him finish in decent territory, and Beard continues to be incredibly efficient with the basketball. Also, shoutout to Jacorey Williams, who had a huge game while Harris was struggling.

Previewing Texas A&M

This is a very important game. No, not the one Saturday. Pay attention. Don't overlook the Aggies. Why? Because of the SEC standings. If the Hogs drop this game, their most likely seed in the SEC tournament would be 4th. A win and 3rd is nearly a guarantee (2nd if Ole Miss drops one more game). Here's the difference between 2nd/3rd and 4th in the tournament:

Seed First Round Second Round Quarterfinal Semifinal
2 BYE BYE 7 Alabama 3 Ole Miss
3 BYE BYE 6 Georgia 2 Ole Miss
4 BYE BYE 5 LSU 1 Kentucky

Beat Texas A&M, and the Aggies are pretty much guaranteed the 4-seed. Hopefully you see why finishing higher than 4th is advised. Second would be preferable.

Record RPI vs. top 50 vs. top 100
Arkansas 22-5 19th 5-2 8-5
Texas A&M 19-7 40th 0-5 6-6

The knock on Texas A&M's otherwise-stellar resume is that they have no top-50 wins (LSU teeters on the good and bad side of #50 every day). Tuesday is their final shot at definitely getting one before the SECT.

Name Position Height Points Rebounds Assists FG % 3FG %
Danuel House* G 6-7 14.8 3.8 2.1 0.431 0.430
Jalen Jones* G/F 6-7 13.5 6.2 - 0.467 0.208
Alex Caruso* G 6-5 9.3 4.7 5.9 0.467 0.314
Kourtney Roberson* F 6-9 8.7 6.0 - 0.637 -
Jordan Green* G 6-5 5.5 1.7 1.8 0.515 0.375
Peyton Allen G 6-5 4.2 - - 0.384 0.329
Antwan Space F 6-8 4.2 2.8 - 0.458 -
Alex Robinson G 6-1 3.8 2.1 2.4 0.360 -
Tavario Miller F 6-7 3.0 3.4 - 0.647 -

House, a Houston transfer, has been on fire for the Aggies lately. He hit 7 three-pointers in the win against South Carolina. Why he's playing this year is a mystery only the NCAA knows the answer to. He's a Houston native who was given a waiver to play immediately at Texas A&M despite moving away from his hometown. That seems pretty unprecedented in the inconsistent world of college transfers. Yes, Houston's coach was fired, but coaches are fired all the time and no waivers are given. Hmm. The fact that Houston hired NCAA villain Kelvin Sampson is probably why the NCAA let the Cougs' best player leave immediately, but the organization would never admit that.

Arkansas offensive overview
Arkansas offense Texas A&M defense Advantage
Efficiency 1.08 (32nd) 0.93 (46th) Push
Floor % 51.9% (23rd) 43.5% (31st) Push

The Aggies are similar to Mississippi State stylistically, and the Bulldogs gave the Hogs trouble in both meetings. Expect a battle here.

Arkansas shooting
Arkansas offense Texas A&M defense Advantage
Effective Field Goal % 50.7% (99th) 45.5% (49th) Texas A&M
Two Point % 49.2% (115th) 46.0% (115th) Push
Three Point % 36.0% (98th) 29.8% (17th) Texas A&M
Three Point Rate 30.8% (262nd) 41.8% (337th) -

Just like Mississippi State, the Aggies have what I call the Atlantic Sun Defense: a very good three-point defense and a high defensive three-point rate. Essentially, they force opponents to jack up a lot of threes and then play good perimeter defense, thus creating a ton of missed shots. They'll work to deny the ball inside to Portis, so Arkansas has to overcome that. Madden and Qualls using their athleticism to drive in the lane would nice. The Hogs can't stand around for 30 seconds and then jack up a shot. That's just what A&M wants. Also, taking three-pointers in transition before the Aggie defense can set up is another way to beat the Atlantic Sun Defense.

Arkansas ballhandling
Arkansas offense Texas A&M defense Advantage
Assist % 60.6% (39th) 59.0% (306th) Arkansas big
Turnover % 16.1% (33rd) 19.5% (135th) Arkansas
Assist : Turnover Ratio 1.44 (10th) 0.95 (158th) Arkansas big

The Aggies' shooting defense advantages do not help them in ballhandling. They do force a decent amount of turnovers, though, so the Hogs have to take care of the basketball.

Texas A&M offensive overview
Texas A&M offense Arkansas defense Advantage
Efficiency 1.01 (125th) 0.95 (73rd) Arkansas
Floor % 49.6% (75th) 45.3% (78th) Push

The Aggie offense consists mostly of House and Jones, both 6-foot-7 combo guards, using their athleticism to create shots or drive to the basket. If you checked the heights on the roster, you saw how long the Aggies are. Theoretically, Arkansas has the personnel to stop this, as Qualls and Madden can D-up House and Jones and still have Portis guarding the rim. The Aggie floor percentage is 50 spots higher than efficiency because Texas A&M doesn't shoot (or make) a whole lot of three's, preferring to get the rim and make layups, short jumpers, and free throws.

Texas A&M shooting
Texas A&M offense Arkansas defense Advantage
Effective Field Goal % 50.5% (107th) 48.2% (139th) Push
Two Point % 50.0% (85th) 47.0% (144th) Texas A&M
Three Point % 34.6% (149th) 33.9% (165th) Push
Three Point Rate 27.9% (309th) 32.1% (98th) -

With a three-point rate of just 28 percent, the Aggies want to go inside. Arkansas' shooting defense has improved tremendously during this seven-game winning streak, and secondary defense inside the arc has been among the major keys. The Hogs swatted 11 Mississippi State shots, and while the Aggies are taller, the Hogs should challenge. Still, don't expect to hold Texas A&M under 60 points.

Texas A&M ballhandling
Texas A&M offense Arkansas defense Advantage
Assist % 60.7% (35th) 51.4% (129th) Texas A&M
Turnover % 18.1% (117th) 22.5% (21st) Arkansas
Assist : Turnover Ratio 1.23 (51st) 0.75 (22nd) Push

Aggie point guard Alex Caruso has shredded Arkansas' press in two of the last three meetings, namely the ugly loss in College Station last year. The Hogs have to get better pressure on the Texas A&M guards.

Arkansas Texas A&M Advantage
Arkansas offensive 34.1% (38th) 73.0% (84th) Push
Arkansas defensive 70.7% (181st) 30.7% (121st) Texas A&M

The Aggies' length gives them a slight rebounding advantage. The Hogs still need to get some offensive boards.

Arkansas Texas A&M Advantage
Arkansas drawing 26.6% (247th) 26.3% (125th) Texas A&M big
Arkansas committing 25.5% (83rd) 27.6% (149th) Arkansas

Texas A&M doesn't commit many fouls at all, so the Hogs can't expect to live at the free throw line like they did in Starkville. On the flip side, A&M doesn't draw a whole lot of fouls, so perhaps this will be a low-foul game all around.

Keys to the Game

  1. Win inside. Texas A&M wants to force three-pointers. If the Hogs end up shooting more than 20 or so, then unless they hit 40 percent or more, that probably means defeat. The Aggies have a lot of pretty tall guys between 6-5 and 6-8, but no one that has the length and athleticism to match up with Portis. If big man Kourtney Roberson gets in foul trouble, the Hogs have a decisive advantage.
  2. Get secondary help. Secondary defense is when a low-post defender comes off his man to help defend a guy inside. The Aggie offense includes House and Jones penetrating a lot. Portis, Kingsley, Harris, and Williams all need to help when one of those guys gets inside, because they will. Blocking and altering shots, along with forcing turnovers, will keep the Aggie offense from getting into a rhythm.
  3. Force turnovers. The Hog press has done a better job in recent games, but didn't force many turnovers at all against Jarvis Summers and Ole Miss. With another decent point guard handling the ball, the Hogs have to rattle him. If the Aggies get enough shots off (that is, the Hogs don't end enough of their possessions by turnover), their chances of winning skyrocket.