Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
Arizona (5-1) visits Texas A&M (5-1) Friday night as part of the Big12/Pac10 Hardwood Series. Last year in the Hardwood series these same two clubs met in Tucson and Arizona came back from a 20-point first half deficit to defeat #9 Texas A&M 78-67. Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell feels that the Wildcats are starting to come together, and offensively they have shown very good ball movement and are ahead of where Pennell had planned.
The Arizona offense is led by forward Chase Budinger, a preseason Pac-10 player of the year candidate by many a season ago that has developed his game and become the team leader. He’s hitting over 65% of his shots and scoring 21 ppg thus far. Budinger plays the wing and has already hit 17 of 26 shots beyond the arch. Fellow 6-10 junior Jordan Hill has been a beast on the boards, averaging 13 rpg while also hitting 60% of his shots for 17 ppg. Quick running junior guard Nic Wise guides the offense with over 6 assists per game and nearly 14 ppg. All three players have improved their play and numbers after starting last season, but now Arizona faces their toughest opponent to date in their first true road test. The Wildcats pace of play has been quite slow this season, and while their shooting and offensive efficiency has been very good the defensive end of the floor is where the Wildcats have lacked the toughness they’ll need against teams like A&M.
Texas A&M is also 5-1 and has played a fairly light schedule of opponents thus far. The Aggies lost to Tulsa a week ago in the South Padre Island Invitational, but that poor shooting night was followed by a solid win the next day over Kent State, hitting 57% of their shots and dominating the glass in a 77-71 win. Texas A&M is also led by three returning starters in swingman Josh Carter (14 ppg), who led the nation in 3-point shooting last year (50%), and strong post player Bryan Davis (12 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Point guard Donald Sloan (12 ppg, 4 apg) has a well-rounded game, but can frustrate his coach at times. Despite a 5-1 start, Aggies coach Mark Turgeon has not been pleased with their play, especially following their 19-point win over NC Wilmington ten days ago. “I’m frustrated beyond belief. I just can't get them to do what I want them to do all the time." Turgeon would like the Aggies to push the ball more and get more production out of the guards. The demands are high, but following a 25 win season in his first year in College Station, coach Turgeon wants more from this group. Texas A&M has a deeper bench than Arizona and may push the pace more than expected in this contest. This is the Aggies only game in a 2-week stretch, and they should go all out and will prove to be the more motivated, physical and aggressive team on the glass.
These teams played an entertaining game last year, and Texas A&M players will surely be reminded that they let a big lead get away in defeat. Arizona won’t find the shots falling as easily against this A&M team on the road, and the Aggies should deliver the home win.
Winner: Texas A&M Margin 3-7 points.
- Bracketology: Selection Sunday Projection
- Bracketology: Saturday Night NCAA Tournament Projection
- Non-BCS Top 25: Creighton, Colorado St Rise
- College Basketball Top 50: Indiana Ends Regular Season #1
- Non-BCS Top 25: Valpo Replaces BYU
- College Basketball Top 50: Maryland and Iowa St Drop Out
- Non-BCS Top 25: Davidson In, Wyoming Out
- College Basketball Top 50: #2 Gonzaga Hits All-Time High
- Non-BCS Top 25: Air Force, Davidson Making Moves
- College Basketball Top 50: Another Week, Another #1
About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.