On Saturday morning, the Arizona Wildcats travel to Houston to take on the Texas A&M Aggies, the second-straight weekend the team hits the road to face an SEC school.
The Aggies have already played two Pac-12 schools (UCLA and USC), and those are A&M’s only losses so far this year.
Most Arizona fans haven’t seen much of TAMU, so we turned to David Dold, basketball editor at Good Bull Hunting, to teach us more about Arizona’s opponent.
1. A&M has only lost to USC and UCLA this year, but held the Bruins to their worst offensive performance of the season. What were the Aggies able to do in that game to keep UCLA in check?
Dold: Honestly, I don't think we did anything particularly unique on defense. We were content to let Lonzo Ball shoot early, and he started cold. It was a case study in game flow... we jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the opening minutes, and that was huge for a young team playing their best opposition of the season. It allowed us to settle into our game early, and it prevented UCLA from snowballing to their conventional early lead.
The whole thing was a fascinating clash of styles. We were grinding out our possessions, and they were an offensive enigma with 30 foot range. The game ultimately turned when they started pushing Tyler Davis off the block - if he establishes position, it's either a bucket or a foul. There's no third option.
2. You have five players averaging double-figures, including sixth-man Robert Williams. What stands out about his game and how he's able to contribute at such a high level coming off the bench?
Dold: He has blown us away with his all-around game. We knew he'd be able to contribute with raw athleticism, but his touch and footwork around the basket are miles ahead of what we were expecting. And the hops this kid has.... at some point, he's going to put someone on a poster that ends up in one of those "year in review" montages.
In regards to his minutes, there are some already calling for him to start.
3. Overall, what do you think this team's biggest weakness and strength are?
Dold: Our biggest weakness is our guard depth - Admon Gilder is a pure scorer being asked to play PG, DJ Hogg is a pure shooter being asked to play combo guard, and the de facto starting point guard (grad transfer JC Hampton) hasn't yet proven that he can demand big time minutes against legit opposition. That yields an extremely tall crunch time five (Gilder, Hogg, Trocha, Williams, Davis), which leads me to our strength - post play. We've got every kind of big guy you need - the big lumbering guy you can't push off the block (Davis), the guy who can jump through the ceiling (Williams), and the stretch four that can hit threes if left unchecked (Trocha).
Our best five can compete with anyone in the country, but things get dicey at the first whiff of foul trouble or fatigue. With that in mind, we try to only use it when we need it.
4. Who's the one guy outside of the main six that Arizona fans should keep an eye on and why?
Dold: [nervously tugs collar]
Uh... pass. Please don't get our important guys in foul trouble. Come on. Be cool.
5. Predictions for Saturday's game:
Dold: We front-loaded our schedule to allow for a full week of rest ahead of this game, so we'll be in a position to run our first unit ragged. For that reason, I think we'll prevail.
I'm not quite sure how that's going to work when the twice-a-week grind of the conference season hits, but that's a problem for January A&M.
Prediction: Texas A&M 66, Arizona 61
Thanks to David for taking the time to answer our stupid questions, and be sure to check out Good Bull Hunting for the best Texas A&M coverage on the internet (remember, B.J. Denker coaches there, so you have to like them when Arizona isn’t playing them).