It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: Texas A&M Preview 2/21/23
Last time out: Tennessee (20-7, 9-5) put on a free-throw missing clinic in Lexington on Saturday. TAMU (20-7, 12-2) picked up a road win against Mizzou 69-60.
Previously on Vols vs. Aggies: Tennessee won its first SEC Tournament championship since 1978 by beating Texas A&M on March 13, 2022. UT built a 14-0 lead early and never let the Aggies to get closer than five points before closing out the game 65-50. Santiago Vescovi led the Vols with 17 points including 4 made three-pointers.
Who to watch: Wade Taylor is the man to look out for. With 15.6 points and 4.2 assists per game, A&M's offense will be running though the sophomore guard. Dexter Dennis is possibly their best defender in the three-guard lineup used most often. Truthfully, TAMU doesn't have a roster of stars, they just gel together well as a team--annoyingly well, as I'll get to below. First an infographic of A&Mformation (sorry for the blurriness, I'm working on that aspect).
TAMU started off the season a thoroughly mediocre 8-5 with a blowout loss to Colorado (what kind of loser program does that?) and losses to teams like Wofford and Murray St. (and this isn't one of those good Murray St. teams we get every few years--these Racers are middling at best). But the Aggies have been on fire since the calendar turned to SEC play. So what gives?
This year's A&M squad is the kind of team that you absolutely adore when they're your guys, and whose existence is intolerable when they're not. For example, senior guard Tyreece Radford wears a headband and let's be honest, the headband guy is always obnoxious unless he's on your team, in which case he's probably your favorite player. Radford used to have a head full of dreadlocks poking out over the top of the headband, but he recently cut them off in honor of a former mentor at Virginia Tech who is going through cancer treatments. They're a roster full of these media-darling types. Head coach Buzz Williams, who tweets like your aunt that spends too much time reading conspiracy theories on Facebook, peddles more cheese than Kraft. He gives his players motivational slogan t-shirts throughout the season ("where there's love there's magic" seems to be his latest mantra) and hands out socks to players who take a charge. It's all so saccharine-sweet that it becomes unbearable BUT if he's your coach, AND if it's working, you buy in whole cloth. The good news is, if you ever see Buzz Williams handing out "Champions of Life" t-shirts, you'll know it's over.Oh, and TAMU is very good at getting to the free-throw line, and makes an SEC-best 77% from there. Sorry, should've put a trigger warning on that.
Prediction: If this game was in Knoxville, I'd take UT. Fact is, Tennessee hasn't won a road game in a month (Jan. 21 @ LSU). It's true that playing on the road in the SEC is tough, but we shouldn't have been burning through that excuse in places like Gainesville and Nashville so it would hold up better here. The Vols are 2-4 in February, while TAMU hasn't lost this month. Unfortunately, I need to see some consistency from Tennessee before I buck that trend. Texas A&M pulls off the win in College Station.