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Texas A&M/BYU Preview
by Matt Fargo - 03/18/2009
The Betting Numbers
If this matchup looks familiar, then you have a good memory as the Aggies and Cougars squared off in the first round of last seasonâ€™s NCAA Tournament. Last season, the seedings were identical as BYU was the eighth seed and Texas A&M was the ninth seed but it was the Aggies that were a slight favorite as they closed at -1. This year, the Cougars opened as a two-point favorite almost everywhere and it has remained steady, sitting at -2 in most places. At Pinnacle, the number opened at -5.5 and was bet down to -2 in a span of 15 minutes. Hello middle! The total is remaining steady as well, hovering between 139.5 and 140.
This is the third meeting between BYU and Texas A&M. The Aggies won the first round game last season 67-62 behind 26 points from Josh Carter but after starting the game on an 11-0 run, Texas A&M had to hold off the Cougars and the game was not decided until the final minute. The only other meeting came in 1972.
Texas A&M closed the season very strong with six consecutive wins heading into the Big XII Tournament. The Aggies faced Texas Tech in the first round, a team they defeated twice during the regular season, but they came up small in losing to the Red Raiders by five points. The time off will help the injured ankle of Carter who is listed a probable but still may not be 100 percent. While that rest is good for Carter, it may not help the entire team as they will have gone a span of 12 days with playing only one game.
Texas A&M went 7-7 away from home this season including 2-2 in neutral court games and it was outshot on average both from the floor and from long range. The Aggies, long known for poor free throw shooting, had a decent 69.1 percent success rate from the line this season but that drops to just 66.4 percent in road games. They finished with a below average 0.95 assist/turnover ratio and that looks stellar compared to its dismal 0.65 ratio away from home.
BYU had another strong season as it finished as the regular-season co-champion in the Mountain West Conference along with Utah and New Mexico. The Cougars bowed out in the second round of the MWC Tournament against San Diego St., a team they had defeated twice during the regular season. That loss snapped a five-game winning streak and BYU closed the season on a solid 10-2 run over its final 12 games. This included a 9-1 finish to the regular season, the fourth straight year that BYU has closed out the regular season going at least 9-1.
The Cougars, who have one of the toughest home courts in the nation, performed very well on the road, going 11-5 away from the Marriott Center. BYU actually averaged more points and hit for a higher shooting percentage from the floor, long range and at the free throw line in its road games and that is a very rare feat. The Cougars posted a very solid 1.43 assist/turnover ratio and while that drops in road games, it does not drop much, dipping to a still solid 1.30. Despite playing in a weaker conference, BYU finished with a schedule ranked only seven spots lower than the Aggies.
Against the Numbers
The Aggies were 14-10 ATS for the season and most of that success came late. Texas A&M went 5-7 against the number in its first 12 lined games but then it really heated up with covers in 10 of its final 12 regular season contests. The Aggies were lethal as underdogs this season, going 9-3 ATS while winning six of those 12 games outright. As an underdog of fewer than three points, they were a perfect 4-0 ATS. The only problem I see with that is that three of those games were at home while another took place in Houston against LSU. Still, a 5-2 ATS mark as a road underdog is very good.
BYU finished 17-14 ATS this year as all but one game had a line associated with it. Despite going 14-2 at home, the Cougars finished only 6-9 ATS as they had to deal with some really big numbers on their home floor. They went 4-7 as a chalk of more than 12 points. The road was a completely different story as BYU went 11-5 ATS in its 16 road games and that included an 8-4 ATS record as a favorite. It isnâ€™t all rosy as the Cougars were 0-3 ATS as a neutral court favorite but they only missed the cover by a combined 10.5 points in those three games.
BYU has not made it out of the first round in its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, as it has not won a game since 1993, when it beat SMU in the first roundâ€¦The Cougars became the first team in the history of the MWC to win three-straight conference titlesâ€¦ BYU is in the Thursday-Saturday pool because the Cougars do not play on Sundays (meaningless for this match but still interesting)â€¦Texas A&M is one of only 16 teams to have made the NCAA Tournament the last four seasonsâ€¦The Aggies blew a 21-point lead against Texas Tech in the Big XII Tournament so that has to be forgottenâ€¦Texas A&M was 11th in the nation in free throw attempts (820).