It’s not often in college basketball that you get the opportunity to avenge a loss in the same season but that’s exactly what the Florida Gators will have on Wednesday as they take on the Texas A&M Aggies.
Less than two weeks ago the Gators (10-7, 3-2 SEC) fell to the Aggies (11-7, 4-0 SEC) and because of the way the SEC schedule shakes out they’ll have the chance at some sweet, sweet revenge. .
Currently the Aggies sit at second place in the SEC and are riding a 6-game winning streak. Since taking on the Gators they’ve actually had somewhat of a similar schedule to them, playing LSU and Missouri who the Gators also matched up with. Florida was able to beat LSU and Missouri 67-56 and 73-64, respectively, while the Aggies were able to win in slightly more convincing fashion, 69-56 and 82-64. Additionally the Aggies took on South Carolina who came off a huge win against Kentucky. Texas A&M had no issues at all with the Gamecocks dismantling them 94-53.
Considering how the Aggies are riding a 6-game win streak with bigger wins over common opponents than Florida got and the fact that the Aggies have already beat the Gators, this could be a challenge for Florida who are looking to keep some positive momentum going.
Where Texas A&M is ranked nationally has changed since two weeks ago in the first matchup.
Going into that matchup the Aggies were 73rd in KenPom, including 44th in offensive efficiency and 112th in defensive efficiency.
Now, they’re up to 47th in KenPom, ranking 28th in offense and 86th in defense.
While they’ve improved in all areas, the strength of the team is clear–it’s putting the ball in the hoop. The Gators were able to largely keep their offense in check in the season’s first matchup but when it came down to clutch time the Aggies had players capable of getting key buckets and that was one of the key differences. Tyrece Radford and Wade Taylor both had 17 points a piece in the back court and how the Gators choose to guard these two players will be a key storyline entering Wednesday’s game.
In terms of frontcourt production it was Julius Marble who had his way, also contributing 17 points. Marble also played quality defense on Colin Castleton who was able to score 14 points, but he turned the ball over 6 times on his way to doing so. Going back to last year head coach Buzz Williams had an effective scheme to limit low post touches for Castleton and the Gators will have to enter Wednesday’s game with a plan of how to get him the precious touches on the inside that he has been so effective with. Castleton is coming off a game against Missouri where was excellent as a passer (6 assists) and he’ll once again need to use that vision against a Texas A&M squad that’s going to send double teams to try to confuse and frustrate him.
Something that could be very different between the first matchup of the season and this one is the role of guard Trey Bonham. In the early matchup he was Florida’s leading scorer pouring in 21 points and 4 assists on a night where the Gators couldn’t get much going offensively and needed him to create on his own late in shot clocks. He also played 33 minutes in that game, and that has changed drastically since that night. In Florida’s last three games he has played 12, 8, and 8 minutes, and while he started in each of those contests he was pulled quickly and seemed to be a bit of an afterthought who wasn’t a part of the game plan. Considering his effectiveness against Texas A&M the first time around he could see his number called again, but perhaps more likely the Gators could try out some different lineups particularly to try and defend the slashing backcourt of the Aggies.
While Trey Bonham has struggled, it has come with the rise of a different guard. Returner Myreon Jones is quietly playing the best basketball of his season going 7-14 from the three-point line in his last three games after playing 13 minutes against Texas A&M and being largely ineffective. He has also sprinkled in 10 assists during his three-game run of quality basketball, something that’s also huge for a Florida offense that needs any playmaking they can get.
While Texas A&M is an offense-first ball club that struggles on the defensive end, Florida is the exact opposite. Their defense continues to get more stout, but they continue to fall in the offensive rankings when it comes to efficiency. Florida just played a Missouri team that has been even better offensively than Texas A&M and was able to completely neutralize their attack, and if they defend in the same way against the Aggies they could steal a win–even if the offense continues to be a mystery.
This game takes place January 18 at 7 PM ET and will be televised on SEC Network.