IHTIT: Tennessee Vols at Texas A&M Aggies Basketball Preview (2/10/24)

It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: The Vols (17-5, 7-2 SEC, 9-5 Q2+) shot a scathing 64% from three in the first half of Tuesday's game against LSU before cooling off in the second half--and still winning by 20. Meanwhile the Aggies (14-8, 5-4, 7-6 Q2+) picked up their fourth win in the last five SEC games, showing a little bit of the form A&M was expected to have from the start of this season. 

Tennessee will look to avenge last season's loss at College Station, a game you might remember for the Aggies making twice as many free throws (28) as the Vols attempted (14). UT has an 11-5 overall record against TAMU, with Rick Barnes having a 3-2 edge over Buzz Williams. 

Preview Graphic: See the basketball glossary for more information. Click for larger version. 


  • I tweeted about this the other day, but Tennessee is the only KenPom top 10 defense that is also playing against top 10 offenses. Obviously the Vols offense is much improved this year but the defense is otherworldly. 
  • As far as A&M's offense, they are an interesting case. The Aggies shoot horribly; they're in the bottom third of all teams in 2-point FG% and free throw % and fifth-worst nationally in 3-point FG%. That puts them in the bottom 15 nationally in effective FG%. 
  • On the other hand, they're careful with the ball at 30th nationally in turnover %. 
  • Probably most importantly, they live up to the M in A&M, because they are a rebounding machine. The Aggies are the best rebounding team in America, and particularly when it comes to offensive rebounds at a clip of 43.6%. 
  • In fact, TAMU has five players who average right at or over five rebounds per game, led by Andersson Garcia (8.9 RPG) and Henry Colman (7 RPG).
Texas A&M was picked to finish second behind the Vols in the SEC preseason poll. However, the Aggies have had a rough go of it so far this season. A pretty tough non-conference slate saw losses to FAU, Virginia, Memphis, and Houston. And while there was an early SEC win over Kentucky, there was also a loss to Arkansas in their 1-3 SEC start. Since then the Aggies seem to be getting it together, winning 4 of their last 5 SEC games, however, that includes two wins over Missouri--arguably the SEC's worst team. 

But in this league no road game gets to be overlooked, so while the Vols should win this game, there's always a reason to doubt. Think about that 43.6% offensive rebound rate. That means almost half of the time an Aggie shooter misses, A&M gets a second chance. That takes a lot of pressure of that terrible shooting percentage by making up in volume what is lacking in quality. I think that's the stat to track Saturday night--if A&M is getting a ton of second chance points, they can hang with UT all night. If the Vols are getting their share of boards, then A&M's poor shooting will take the Aggies out of the game. 

Also see if Tennessee can avoid many "turkeys," a custom stat that Buzz Williams tracks for his team. A turkey is when the defense gets three defensive stops in a row. The Aggies are averaging over seven turkeys a game over their last five games and have at least five turkeys in all but one SEC contest this season. Of course you can't spell turkey without UT... um... not sure if that's a good or bad thing?

Prediction: Tennessee 78, Texas A&M 73
Mediocre Betting Advice: Tennessee is a 3.5-point favorite. KenPom has the Vols winning by 4. Don't fool yourself into thinking that because A&M hasn't quite lived up to preseason hype that this will be an easy game. The Vols will have to battle, and at just 3.5 points, there's a lot of room for error. I'm still going to go with Tennessee -3.5 because I believe in this offense's ability to flirt with 80 points, which would also trigger the over 140.5
Prediction Totals YTD: 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS, 2-4-1 O/U


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