Texas A&M-Arkansas Preview
While they’re both headed in the right direction as they try to end NCAA tournament droughts, Arkansas and Texas A&M are also in position to land top-four seeds in the SEC tournament.
Ahead of a showdown with undefeated Kentucky, the 18th-ranked Razorbacks will try to maintain their hold on second place as they go after their seven straight win Tuesday night against the visiting Aggies.
Arkansas (22-5, 11-3) trails the top-ranked Wildcats by three games with four remaining, while Texas A&M (19-7, 10-4) and Mississippi are one back of the Razorbacks. The Aggies and Rebels, however, own a two-game advantage in the race for a top-four seed and automatic bye into the SEC tournament quarterfinals.
The Razorbacks and Aggies would prefer to finish in the top three to avoid facing Kentucky in the semis.
Arkansas will get to see how far it has come against the Wildcats on Saturday, but it’ll be careful not to look past an improving Texas A&M team that has won 10 of 12 since taking Kentucky to double overtime Jan. 10.
Junior guard Danuel House enjoyed a breakout performance with 25 points in that 70-64 loss. He’s carried the Aggies with 17.5 points per game while hitting 38 of 79 (48.1 percent) from 3-point range in his last 13.
The Houston transfer matched his season high with 25 again and fell one 3-pointer shy of the school’s single-game record by going 7 of 11 from long range Saturday in the team’s third straight victory, 62-52 at South Carolina.
Texas A&M will now try to reach 20 wins for the first time since 2010-11, the last season it made the NCAA tournament. That certainly won’t be an easy task in Fayetteville, where the Razorbacks have won 22 of 23.
”We’ve got an older group and they know what they’re playing for,” Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said. ”They understand what’s at stake and have done a tremendous job of staying in moment."
Arkansas, seeking its first NCAA tournament berth since 2008, hopes to bounce back after shooting a season-worst 35.2 percent and 3 for 15 from 3-point range in Saturday’s 65-61 win at Mississippi State.
”We found a way to escape,” said coach Mike Anderson, whose squad forced 23 turnovers and held the Bulldogs scoreless during a late six-minute stretch. ”That’s what you’ve got to do.”
Rashad Madden stepped up with 16 points while leading scorer Bobby Portis (17.4 per game) – who was recovering from an illness – and Michael Qualls (15.4) had a combined 27 and shot 8 for 21.
"We’re very deep and on any given night any player can pick up the slack for another player,” Qualls said.
Texas A&M, 5-2 on the road in SEC play, ranks second in the league defending the 3 (29.9 percent), third with 61.5 points allowed per game and fourth in overall defensive field-goal percentage (39.3).
The Aggies also might be able to give Arkansas trouble on the boards, where they own a plus-3.9 rebounding margin in their last 12 games. The Razorbacks have a minus-6.4 mark in their past five.
This is the 151st meeting between the schools, but only the fourth as SEC members. Texas A&M won last season’s only meeting 69-53 at home.
The Aggies have dropped their last 15 road games against ranked opponents.