Saturday Preview: #22 Texas A&M vs. #13 Florida

    
December 17th, 2011

The end of finals week for many schools means a step up in competition on Saturday, and one contest that will garner attention is the second game of the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Florida. #22 Texas A&M (8-1), which has a strength of schedule that ranks 341st in the country, takes on #13 Florida (7-2) in what should be an interesting matchup. Do the Aggies have the horses on the perimeter to hang with the Gator guards? That's a big question that A&M needs answered in the affirmative if they're to have a shot at knocking off Florida, but it's going to be difficult to say the least.

Dash Harris (3.7 ppg, 4.1 apg) is called upon more for his distribution skills, and with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6 he's done a good job of taking care of the basketball. But he's also shooting a meager 25.6% from the field, making it likely that Florida essentially dares him to shoot from the perimeter. Washington transfer Elston Turner (12.1 ppg) provides the scoring for the starting backcourt, and at this stage he may be an upgrade over last year's starter B.J. Holmes. Jordan Green, who moved into the starting lineup when Khris Middleton went down with a knee injury, is averaging 5.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 47.8% from the field.

Florida can counter with four guards who average at least 9.8 points per game and a fifth (Scottie Wilbekin) who sees minutes due to his ability to take care of the basketball and defend. Erving Walker (13.9 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Kenny Boynton (18.7 ppg, 3.1 apg) are both tough guards who can get their looks in a variety of ways. However the key for them, as well as reserve Mike Rosario (9.8 ppg) is shot selection. All three can get a bit wild on occasion, which can lead to the neglect of their weapon in the post. As for freshman Bradley Beal, simply put the St. Louis native is going to be a star. Beal's second on the team in scoring (15.1 ppg) and third in rebounding (6.6 rpg), and if he can cut down on the turnovers look out. 

But back to Florida's interior weapon, sophomore Patric Young. A player some scouts compared to Dwight Howard before he played a game at the collegiate level, the sophomore is averaging 11.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game on the season. With more minutes his field goal percentage, assists and blocks have increased as well, but there have been times where his teammates seem to forget how important it is to keep him involved offensively. Young's taken ten or more shots in just two games this season, attempting just seven in the Gators' last outing. Florida needs to get him involved from the start against the Aggies' deep and active frontcourt.

Middleton (15.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and David Lobeau (11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) lead the way from an experience standpoint but junior Ray Turner (13.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg) has been a factor for Billy Kennedy's team as well. Turner opened the season with consecutive 20-point outings, and his field goal percentage (63.7%) leads Texas A&M. Kourtney Roberson and Keith Davis provide additional size off the bench for the Aggies, and on the perimeter they can call on vet Naji Hibbert and freshman Jamal Branch as well. 

Florida will also look for quality minutes from forwards Will Yeguete (6.5 points, 6.8 rpg) and Erik Murphy (8.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg) along with wing Casey Prather. While there's a sizable difference in the number of possessions per game (Florida averages seven more possessions per game), Texas A&M has been the better team on the glass. The Aggies out-rebound their opponents by 10.3 rebounds per game while the Gators grab 7.9 more boards, but there's also the matter of offensive rebounding to take into consideration.

Florida's grabbed 40.8% of their misses while Texas A&M's opponents have an offensive rebounding rate of just 25.1%. That area, along with A&M's turnovers (their turnover percentage is six points higher than Florida's), will ultimately determine whether or not Texas A&M can pick up a key victory. The Aggies won't be the only Big 12 team to hit the road for a big game as #7 Baylor visits one of the toughest environments in college basketball as they take on BYU in Provo. The frontcourt play will be worth the price of admission itself, but the key for the Bears will be how their guards perform in their first true road game. Also of note will be mid-year transfers Gary Franklin (Baylor) and Matt Carlino (BYU) making their first appearances with their new programs.

A rivalry from the days of the Metro Conference and Conference USA will also be rekindled as Louisville hosts Memphis. The Tigers welcome back guard Charles Carmouche, who was suspended four games by the NCAA, while the Cardinals hope to have Kevin Ware available for his first action of the season. But Ware sprained his ankle in practice earlier in the week so it remains to be seen if he can go. The perimeter play with the likes of Peyton Siva and Joe Jackson will be fun to watch, but for Memphis to win big man Tarik Black needs to stay on the floor. Louisville's Chane Behanan has been one of the best interior freshmen in the country to date.

UNLV taking on Illinois in the United Center is a contest that could have a serious impact on what happens come March, especially for the Runnin' Rebels. Dave Rice was hopeful that Marquette transfer Reggie Smith would be able to make his debut but that may not come until Monday. This contest also offers another good test for Illinois big man Meyers Leonard; with the Rebels being able to more than hold their own against North Carolina a few weeks ago it's obvious that this experienced corps can give he and the rest of the Fighting Illini forwards a hard time. Mike Moser leads the nation in rebounding and can do a little bit of everything for UNLV, while Chace Stanback is one of their many versatile perimeter options. 

There's also the matter of the "Holy War" between Villanova and Saint Joseph's, with the Wildcats visiting Hawk Hill to take on the Hawks in the refurbished Hagan Arena. The Big 5 always offers highly competitive basketball but this one will be at a fevered pitch as the Hawks never get to host Villanova, and with Carl Jones, Langston Galloway and C.J. Aiken they've got the weapons to send the Wildcats home with a loss. It will be imperative that Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek lead in more ways than the scoring column given the youth of Jay Wright's team.

Out west there's another enticing matchup as Arizona takes on Gonzaga in Seattle. Which Elias Harris shows up for the Bulldogs will likely determine the outcome of the game as Arizona may not have the depth required to deal with both he and Robert Sacre if the junior is on his game. But Arizona wasn't expected to hang with Florida in Gainesville and all they did was take the Gators to overtime. Nick Johnson is one of the top freshman guards around, and if the Wildcats can get something of import from Josiah Turner things could get interesting. It isn't Christmas yet, but this slate is a nice holiday present for college hoops fans.   

Top 25 Games
6:30 PM (1) Syracuse at North Carolina State (ESPN2)
12:00 PM (2) Ohio State at South Carolina (ESPN)
8:00 PM Chattanooga at (3) Kentucky (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Memphis at (4) Louisville (CBS)
6:00 PM Appalachian State at (6) North Carolina (ESPNU)
2:00 PM (7) Baylor at Brigham Young (BYU TV)
4:00 PM Northern Colorado at (11) Marquette (ESPN3)
2:30 PM (22) Texas A&M vs. (13) Florida* (FSN)
6:00 PM South Carolina State at (14) Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
12:00 PM (16) Mississippi State at Detroit (ESPN3)
12:00 PM American University at (17) Georgetown (ESPN3)
12:00 PM Alabama A&M at (18) Michigan (BTN)
5:00 PM UNLV vs. (19) Illinois (BTN)
4:30 PM Notre Dame vs. (20) Indiana* (ESPN2)
10:00 PM (21) Alabama vs. Kansas State* (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Bowling Green at (23) Michigan State (BTN)
8:05 PM Houston Baptist at (24) Creighton
5:30 PM Indiana State at (25) Vanderbilt (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM Elon at Dartmouth
12:00 PM Stony Brook vs. Rutgers* (MSG)
12:00 PM Florida Atlantic vs. Miami (FL)* (FSN)
1:00 PM Marist at New Hampshire
1:00 PM Iona at Vermont
2:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Northwestern
2:00 PM Albany at Cornell
2:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at West Virginia (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Radford at Cincinnati (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Saint Peter's at Long Island
2:00 PM Southern Illinois at Northern Illinois (FCS)
2:00 PM Butler vs. Purdue* (CBS)
2:00 PM Duquesne at Western Michigan
2:05 PM Tennessee Tech at Evansville
2:30 PM Temple at Texas (ESPN2)
2:30 PM Fordham at St. John's (MSG)
3:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Arkansas
3:00 PM UC Davis at UCLA (FSN PT)
3:00 PM Missouri Valley at Northwestern State
3:05 PM Kennesaw State at Missouri State
3:15 PM USC Upstate at Stetson
4:00 PM Campbell at Virginia Tech (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Florida A&M at Akron
4:00 PM Bradley at Drexel
4:00 PM Arizona vs. Gonzaga* (CBS)
4:00 PM Binghamton at Hofstra
4:00 PM Chicago State at Loyola (IL)
4:30 PM Belmont at Miami (OH)
4:30 PM Winthrop at Clemson (ESPN3)
4:30 PM Ole Miss at Southern Miss (ESPN3)
5:00 PM Old Dominion at UCF
5:00 PM Spring Hill at Samford
5:00 PM Pacific at Santa Clara
6:00 PM Northern Arizona at Arizona State (FSN AZ)
6:00 PM Charleston Southern at Charleston (ESPN3)
6:00 PM UC Riverside at Nevada
6:30 PM Boise State at Denver (Root NW)
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at Massachusetts (NESN)
7:00 PM Ohio at Wright State
7:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Tulsa
7:00 PM High Point at Marshall
7:00 PM Richmond at Bucknell
7:00 PM FIU at Dayton
7:00 PM Tennessee State at Delaware State
7:00 PM Hampton at Liberty
7:00 PM Rider at UMBC
7:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Youngstown State at Toledo
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at VCU (ESPN3)
8:00 PM North Florida at Auburn
8:00 PM San Diego at Stanford
8:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at Jacksonville State
8:00 PM Arkansas State at Murray State
8:00 PM Furman at Western Kentucky (FCS)
8:00 PM Alabama State at Saint Louis
8:00 PM Alcorn State at Nebraska (BTN.com)
8:00 PM Houston vs. Oklahoma* (ESPNU)
8:00 PM Lamar at Rice
8:00 PM Nebraska Omaha at Milwaukee
8:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at DePaul
8:00 PM Rochester Coll at Austin Peay
8:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Louisiana Tech
8:00 PM Mayville State at North Dakota State
8:00 PM Villanova at Saint Joseph's (CBSSN)
8:05 PM Oakland at Valparaiso
9:00 PM UMES at Air Force
9:00 PM Drake at Iowa (BTN)
9:00 PM Texas College at Stephen F. Austin
9:00 PM Southern at UTEP
9:05 PM Seattle at Utah State (ESPN3)
9:05 PM La Verne at Cal State Fullerton
9:05 PM Georgia State at Utah Valley
10:00 PM Georgia at USC (FSN)
10:00 PM Cal Poly at Fresno State
10:00 PM Montana at Portland
10:00 PM Menlo College at San Francisco
10:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at Saint Mary's
10:05 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Idaho
10:05 PM Pacifica College at Cal State Northridge
10:30 PM New Mexico vs. Oklahoma State* (ESPN2)