Tennessee (12-7, 4-2 SEC) returns to conference play on Tuesday following their 74-68 loss to Kansas in the BIG12/SEC challenge. Though in a losing effort, the Vols held one of the nation’s top teams in check for much of the game. Our next opponent is a former BIG12 school; Texas A&M. Let’s take a closer look at A&M’s program and current season, their players to watch, as well as look at the Vols and discuss what we may be able to expect on Tuesday.
Everyone Thinks A&M Is Cult-ish, right?
- School: Texas Agriculture and Mechanical University
- Location: College Station, Texas
- Mascot: Aggies
- Conference: SEC
- Coach: Buzz Williams (1st season)
- 2019-2020 Record: (9-9, 3-3)
- Current Post-Season Projection (Lunardi): Out
- Last Game Against Tennessee: 2/2/2019- Vols take down Aggies 93-76 to advance to 20-1; five Vols scored over 14 points.
- Notable Former Basketball Player: Alex Caruso- Caruso (AKA the Bald Mamba) was a player at A&M that everyone loved to hate, but now is someone in the NBA everyone loves. While he is currently the backup PG for the L.A. Lakers averaging just 5.5 points per game and 1.7 assists, he actually finished 4th in Western Conference All-Star point guard votes, primarily because of his unexpected athleticism which has resulted in a number of highlight dunks and hustle plays.
A&M has been less than impressive this season, and was beaten pretty soundly by the current last place team in the BIG12, Oklahoma State 73-62 during this past weekend’s BIG12/SEC Challenge. They also had a three-game losing streak earlier this season where they fell to Harvard, Temple, and Fairfield (YIKES). They are one of those teams that you watch and the sentiment “meh” comes to mind, and you know Buzz Williams is just trying to make it through year one. However, they do have some similarities to this year’s Tennessee squad in that they are undersized and lack an identity. There are two Aggies who will be who Tennessee will have to key on to get win number 13.
The first player to look at is Junior Small Forward Savion Flagg. Flagg has progressed each year he has been in College Station, and is now the leader of the Aggies’ basketball team insofar as a “floor leader” is concerned. Last year, he led the conference in minutes per game, and he still shoulders a heavy load of minutes in 2019-2020. Flagg is a well-rounded player by A&M standards, averaging 11.4 points (2nd on team), 4.8 rebounds (3rd on team) and 2.4 assists (leads team). However, Flagg is very erratic at times, and has shown to be a turnover machine (he averages 2.8 turnovers per game). Flagg is an average/capable 3pt shooter, hitting right at 36%, but his biggest strength is attacking the basket.
The better of the two Aggie players to watch is Senior Center Josh Nebo. Nebo is in his second year at Texas A&M after playing his first two seasons at St. Francis in Pennsylvania. This season, Nebo is without a doubt the most important piece of the Aggies’ team. He leads the team in points (12.6), rebounds (7.3), and blocks (2.6), and trails only Yves Pons and Nick Richards in total blocks in the SEC. Nebo, like Pons and Richards, is extremely athletic. He is undersized for the Center position at 6’9”, but is definitely a force down low on both ends of the court. I personally look for Nebo to be an All-SEC Defensive team selection. I expect he and John Fulkerson to have a back and forth night, with Pons occasionally being tasked with guarding him due to his athleticism. If the Vols can neutralize Nebo, they win this game.
What We Learned Leaving The Phog
I, for one, was extremely impressed with Tennessee’s performance against Kansas. We saw continued hustle and success from John Fulkerson, Yves Pons’ best performance as a Vol, as well as a Jordan Bowden that looked a little more familiar (well, in the 2nd half). What was concerning for me was the play of Josiah-Jordan James. Now, I am more inclined to believe that this was a one game poor performance instead of something to expect to continue, but the lack of confidence that we saw from him earlier in the season reared its head again against the Jayhawks.
James is ate up with talent and potential, but for some reason it seems it is yet to all click for him. I know that he was absent for much of the pre-season, but he had progressed so far leading into Kansas that we can no longer use that as an excuse. I know many people expected him to be a one-and-done player coming into this season(#22 player in 2019 class per 247), but to me, and I think to the rest of the basketball world, JJJ now looks as if he would be better served staying in college for a couple more years. I really want to see how he responds in TBA on Tuesday after what was a very disappointing performance in Lawrence (0 points on 0-6 shooting, 7 boards, 4 assists, 6 turnovers).
I am picking this game based on my recent decision to completely buy in to the play of the Volunteers’ frontcourt. I believe that Tennessee has 3 defenders (Bowden, James, and Pons) that could all make A&M’s Flagg a non-factor, as well as that James will have a pretty good bounce-back performance in Knoxville, especially given that this game is against a bad team. Fulkerson, Pons, and Nkamhoua will have their hands full with Nebo, but I think it will be a pretty balanced game between the two teams’ post presences. I am fairly confident this will be a VERY ugly game, but also fairly confident we notch win number 13 overall and win 5 in SEC play. I am saying A&M 53, Vols 62.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. As I have said all season, Tennessee must win every game they are expected to in order to reach the NCAA tournament, and this is one of those games. With a rather solid performance against Kansas on Saturday, Tennessee is showing signs of playing their best basketball at a time when they need to the most. Winning this game will put them 7 wins shy of that magic 20 win number, and there is definitely still hope!
For minute to minute news concerning all aspects of all Volunteer sports, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues on Twitter (@More_Issues), as well as listening to the podcast on any of the various podcast platforms! Trust me, Landon and Caleb won’t let you down If you’re looking for quality Big Orange talk with a laid-back attitude. Until we meet again, this is Dakota Robertson saying see ya later and Go Vols!
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