Texas looked great against Texas A&M, but the Aggies need a reality check
I was having some difficulty coming up with a word to describe the 81-60 win Texas picked up at home against Texas A&M on Wednesday night, so I googled ‘thrashed’ and ‘synonym’. This is what the intrawebs spit back out at me: drubbed, clobbered, creamed, obliterated, beat up, beat down, worked over, and mollywhopped.
I’ll go with the last one there.
The Longhorns mollywhopped the Aggies Wednesday night.
There is really no other way to put it. Texas dominated the Aggies inside early and often, getting eight of their first 12 points from Tristan Thompson, who finished with 18 points, six boards, and four blocks, en route to an early 20-5 lead. A Mark Turgeon technical sparked a 14-4 run by the Aggies to get within five, but that surge was short-lived. A Gary Johnson dunk sparked a 15-4 run that was capped by a Jordan Hamilton three, and the Longhorns headed into the break up 39-27.
The seal clubbing only continued in the second half.
Hamilton kicked off the second twenty minutes with a tough, turnaround three, two free throws, and a fadeaway jumper, and while there were technically still 18 minutes left in the game, this one was all but over.
After watching this performance, you’d be a fool not to pencil Texas into the No. 2 slot in the Big XII, right behind those pesky Jayhawks.
What makes Texas so good this season is not how good they are on the defensive end of the floor. Well, that’s not 100% accurate. Texas is terrific defensively. Kenpom has them sitting fifth in the country is defensive efficiency in large part because they are the best team in the country in terms of effective field goal percentage. They have tough, athletic kids at every position that are willing to get into their man’s jockstrap 50 feet from the basket. It doesn’t hurt to have a human eraser like Thompson protecting the rim, either.
Texas could have put a team like that on the floor last year, though.
The difference this season is that when Texas has their best defensive team on the floor, they also have their best -- or one of their best -- offensive teams on the floor. Instead of having to juggle his lineup, Rick Barnes can feel comfortable relying on his rotation. Dogus Balbay might be the best perimeter defender in the country. Cory Joseph can hold his own. And while J’Covan Brown and Hamilton will likely never be considered lock down defenders, they are certainly both better than they were a year ago.
Defensive isn’t the only place that Hamilton has shown a dramatic improvement, either. As a freshman, Hamilton was known for being a gunner, a kid that didn’t understand the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. This season, he has become a much more efficient scorer. His shooting percentages are up across the board, his turnovers are down, his assists are up, and his offensive rating is way up despite seeing his minutes, shots, and usage all increase. He had 27 points on 10-14 shooting from the field, a stat line that is not all that surprising this season.
As good as Texas looked tonight, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it wasn’t hard to see this coming.
Texas A&M is a good basketball team. They defend, they rebound the ball, and they are well coached.
But they are not one of the top ten teams in the country. The Aggies came into this game with a 16-1 record, but just two of those wins came in true road game -- at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and at Oklahoma. Their three wins of note were all by a single possession. They beat Washington at home by one, Missouri at home in OT, and Temple in Orlando by three. They were also taken to overtime by Arkansas in a game that the Aggies were down double digits in the second half.
Those gaudy rebounding and defensive numbers? They built them up against mediocre competition, and the real teams that they faced are not exactly known for their boardwork. Against Texas, who is a good but far from great rebounding team, the only gathered 33.3% of their own misses (as opposed to 41.1% on the season) while allowing Texas to get 40.9% of their available offensive rebounds (they were allowing just 26.8% this season), numbers that are far off of what the Aggies are used to.
Texas A&M will be near the top of the Big XII standings all season long. They only play Missouri, Kansas State, and Kansas once. They will pile up some wins, and they will deserve the majority of them.
But don’t let their gaudy record fool you.
This is a good basketball team and probably a top 25 team, but they are not yet an elite team and certainly not ready to compete for the Big XII title.