#8(27-7) #9 (24-10)
Honda Center 425PM PT TV:
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Both teams needed the at-large berth to make it into this years field. BYU was a near certain lock by winning the Mountain West regular season title, but they fell to UNLV in the title game. On the other hand Texas A&M had to play its way into the tourney and they did so by defeating first Iowa State and then Kansas State before falling to Kansas in a close game. Texas A&M started the season on fire and was ranked in the top 15 for the first half of the year then they had a few bumps in a row to drop them out of the rankings and into the bubble conversation. Texas A&M has excellent big man who will counter well against BYU’s Trent Plaisted. The Aggies have a future lottery pick in Frosh DeAndre Jordan and he comes of the bench. The one thing that the Aggies lack is a take over the game scorer, their leading scorer is Josh Carter but he only averages 11 per game. The scoring is very balanced across the board with 6 players who score at least 8 points. That is good and bad because it means any player is likely to go off above that average, but the downside is that they have no go to player who can score 25 a game. Texas A&M do have the bigs to neutralize Plaisted which means either BYU will rely even more on there outside shooting or force it down low and see if Plaisted can take over a game, but that has yet to be seen when Plaisted plays against players of his size. For BYU’s scoring threat they have three go to guys in Co-POY Lee Cummard who scores 15.8, and then there is another 15 point scorer in Plaisted, and finally Jonathan Tavernari who scores 13 per game. BYU has players to step up and take over scoring wise. Neither team has done all that well in the NCAA’s in recent past, the Aggies are making their 4th overall tournament appearance but it is their 3rd in a row and BYU has yet to win a first round game in 15 years. BYU will have the home court because so many people follow the school in California because of the religious background at BYU, so that could be the difference in the game. Also, if Texas A&M can slow down or stop Plaisted that gives the Ags an edge there. This game is also a toss up but the edge should go to BYU because they have more scoring threats and have been playing better of late.
READ MORE FOR ESPN.com’s take on each team
ESPN on BYU:
Casual fans might recognize the names of Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted, two high-efficiency offensive options for the Cougars, but the real story of this year’s Mountain West champs is how they defend.
BYU ranks in the top 10 in the country in defending shots from both inside and outside the arc, and it also is a top five team in keeping opponents off the offensive glass. That combination gives the Cougars plenty of wiggle room on the offensive end. Besides the rugged 6-foot-11 Plaisted (15.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and 6-foot-6 guard Cummard (15.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.4 apg), you have to watch out for guard Jonathan Tavernari (13.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg). The best indicator of this team’s ceiling was in a Vegas tournament in November when the Cougars beat Louisville and gave North Carolina everything it wanted for the better part of 38 minutes. BYU has had a sneakily quiet season, but 14-2 in the MWC is nothing to sneeze at. This would not be the best of draws for your team in Round 1.
ESPN on Texas A&M:
Coach Mark Turgeon’s first A&M team was one of the most inconsistent in the country over the second half of the season. The Aggies started the season 15-1, then endured a three-game losing streak and a five-game winning streak before finishing the regular season with five losses in their final seven games.
Turgeon has been brutally honest with his team’s failings, often calling out specific players. He’s also been brutal about himself at the same time. The Aggies squandered a 20-point lead against Arizona on Dec. 2, eventually losing by 11 points.
A&M has struggled offensively with no players ranked in the top 20 in scoring in the Big 12. Josh Carter (12.5 ppg) is the leading scorer and top perimeter threat. Expectations were big for senior F-C Joseph Jones, but he has responded with the lowest scoring (10.6 ppg) and rebounding totals (5.2 rpg) of his career. And heralded freshman C DeAndre Jordan struggled most of the season before becoming a presence inside with 10 rebounds in two of his final four regular-season games.
A&M’s guards are sometimes prone to shaky decisions against teams that forcefully defend them, leading to scoring droughts that have been especially prevalent late in the season. They do rank second in the conference in field-goal percentage (46.7 percent) and third in defensive field-goal percentage (39.1 percent). But the Aggies are last in the Big 12 in free-throw shooting (63.5 percent), steals (4.68 per game) and turnover margin (minus 1.26 per game).