After experiencing a tough loss in their backcourt with point guard TJ Starks going down with a shoulder injury, the slumping Texas A&M Aggies basketball team will be facing the even worse Vanderbilt Commodores in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday.
The basketball gods must have seen the Aggies struggles and decided to provide them an opportunity to get a warm-up game in the first round, which is arguably better than a first round bye. Head coach Billy Kennedy has an opportunity to get his rotations at guard together and get his team in a shooting rhythm.
It’s a general rule of thumb to never underestimate an opponent. After all, everyone in the tournament technically has a clean slate, right? However, there is a trend with the Commodores that cannot be ignored — Vanderbilt is a pitiful 0-18 in conference play and is only the second team to do that since Georgia Tech went 0-14 back in 1954.
The Aggies already handed the Commodores a loss back in March even though the game was relatively close, 64-57. There is no reason why the Aggies shouldn’t be able to blow them out the second time around and not only make a statement in the tournament, but prove they just have the better team.
Here are the three keys to victory for the Aggies:
Beat Vanderbilt on the boards. The Aggies out-rebounded Vandy, 42-33, in their first matchup. With the Aggies size advantage inside, they need to widen this margin. Vanderbilt stole a lot of cheap points off of offensive rebounds under the basket last time.
Shut down Vanderbilt forward Simisola Shittu. The former five-star recruit killed the Aggies last time they play earning a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in only 23 minutes. He might be a freshman, but Shittu is one of the best frontcourt prospects in the country.
Start fast. The Commodores are probably running off of a restored confidence now that they are 0-0. The Aggies need to jump out on them early to kill their confidence. The Aggies were down double-digits, 22-12, in the first half of last game, but without Starks on the floor, that deficit could be hard to overcome this time.
If the Aggies can do these three things, they should be okay and avoid one of the biggest upsets of the season. As far as scoring goes, Aggies guard Savion Flagg and forward Christian Mekowulu will be the difference makers.