The stage is set for the reuniting of two former conference foes as the Oklahoma Sooners prepare to clash with the Texas A&M Aggies. Just one year after the Aggies bolted for greener pastures in the SEC, the two will meet again.
Stakes are high; a win for the Sooners would mean retribution in a way, after the Aggies abandoned the conference in which they had spent the last 16 years. For the Aggies, well, it would just be sweet to get a win at the hands of a former conference opponent. Needless to say, when these two teams take the court Saturday for the All-College Classic at Chesapeake Energy Arena, it will be intense.
Wait what? Court? All-College Classic?
Yes indeed. Although the two teams will meet again on the hardwood first, talk of the matchup has been relatively quiet. Instead, the game that is getting all of the hype is one that will take place on a football field; when newly dubbed Johnny Heisman, AKA the first freshman to ever win college football’s most coveted award, will take on Landry Jones and the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl. Rightfully so, the matchup has everything a college football fan could possibly ask for: The Heisman winner, two teams from high-level conferences ranked in the top 15; it’s arguably one of the best, if not the best non-BCS bowl game. However, because of all that, it’s overshadowing what has potential to be a pretty good basketball game between the same two teams.
Both Oklahoma (6-2) and Texas A&M (7-1) enter the game lacking a marquee win so far this season. With both teams currently ranked in the top 25 of the RPI, a win on a neutral site could go a long way towards building a solid resume. As if they didn’t already have enough reason to fight for the win, the prospect of a resume-boosting conference…err…out of conference win only adds fuel to the fire.
Both teams will be hungry for a win, and it should make for a rather intriguing matchup. Tip-off is set for 1 PM CST on Saturday.
It will be the first time Oklahoma has seen on court action in 11 days, their last game a loss on the road against Arkansas, 81-78. Texas A&M faces a similar hiatus of 10 days since their last game. With both being equally rested, Oklahoma’s depth could be a major factor.
The Sooners have been notorious for substitutions this season, boasting a group than can go nine, and at times 10 men deep. All in all, nine players average above 15 minutes per game this season. This even distribution of minutes is a testimony to the balance the Sooner roster has. Despite starting two true freshmen, four the Oklahoma’s top five players off the bench are upperclassmen. Having the ability to plug some experienced skill into the game is a luxury the Sooners have at their disposal and should use to their advantage.
The weather forecast predicts rain from downtown on Saturday. The Aggies are one of deadliest long distance shooting teams in the nation, coming in at 38% from three. Much of the success from long range can be credited to Elston Turner (43%). Turner’s 22 threes so far this season account for account for over half (53.7%) of the Aggies total three point field goals this season. Just behind Turner are Fabyon Harris and freshman J’Mychal Reese, who combined have hit 38% of their threes this season.
The Aggies perimeter firepower will present a tough test for the Sooners, who have one of the more stellar three point defenses in the nation.
Defined by its athleticism and length, this Sooner defense is perfectly molded for defending outside shots, having kept opponents to just 29% from beyond the arc this season. In fact, you’re lucky if you can muster enough to get an attempt up against Oklahoma’s style, the Sooners rank in the top 100 (86) in three pointers attempted by its opponent (16.4).
If the Aggies are going to attack the Sooner defense, the paint needs to be their battleground.
Lucky for them, they have Ray Turner for that. The 6-foot-9 senior has been steady for them all season, and has really started to come on strong his last two outings, a 14 and 11 performance which was followed up with 15 and 8. Along with Kourtney Roberson, the team’s leading rebounder, Turner makes a formidable Aggie post. Their presence down low adds versatility to the Aggie offense, giving them an inside-outside attack.
The last time the Sooners faced a team with a similar style they lots, 72-47 against Gonzaga. This time they hope that the outcome is not so lopsided.
Amath M’Baye hopes to help make that happen. Since the Gonzaga loss, the Wyoming transfer has become a different man. Since the game against the Bulldogs, M’Baye has averaged 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, including a 19 point game against West Virginia. He, along with Romero Osby, will look to deter the Aggie’s inside attack. The weight his performance could potentially hold on this game is so great, that M’Baye is the Sooner to Watch this game.
However, also keep a watchful eye on senior guard Steven Pledger. Pledger led the Sooners in scoring last season, but the sharpshooter has been on a cold streak lately. Pledger is only averaging nine points over the last five games, but shined some light, shooting 4-7 from three against Arkansas. Hopefully his performance was indicative of things to come and he breaks out of his shell becoming the Pledger many were hoping to see this year and did see last year. We want the Steven Pledger capable of 30 point outbursts, like he has shown he can be.
Although surpassed in luster by football, these two teams have a lot to offer in their matchup on the court. Both teams will be hungry for a win for a variety of reasons, and one has to think there will be a certain feeling of animosity between the two. It will be physical, hard fought game and no one would be surprised if it was not decided until the final minutes. As a college basketball fan, it’s a game worth watching, despite the nominal publicity it’s getting.
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