This is for all the Tostitos. Or at least half. In what's probably the best match-up of Big 12 basketball season so far, Texas A&M will make the two hour trip to Austin to take on in-state rival Texas. To add drama to the rivalry, Texas is ranked 10th in the AP poll with A&M 11th while A&M is ranked 10th by the Coaches and Texas is ranked 11th. You can't get much closer than that. Now to iron out the differences and advantages.
Coaching: I'm going with the Aggies here. Rick Barnes is a masterful recruiter, but I always feel like he's just on the outside of the elite coaching cadre (
probably that lack of a Final Four Ed. Note: Barnes actually has gone to a Final Four in 2003. My mistake.). Mark Turgeon on the other hand does not get the stars, but he does a tremendous job getting his teams to perform to the best of their abilities (although he still hasn't made the leap to winning a lot in the postseason either). Still, I give the slightest edge to Turgeon.
Superstar: Texas ties the Aggies thanks to a slight edge from Jordan Hamilton over Khris Middleton. This, by the way is the match-up of the night (if not the year). Hamilton has bounced back from a fairly mediocre freshman campaign to become one of the frontrunners for conference POY. So far this year he's averaging 19.2 points per game on 47% shooting (42% from three). He's taking much better shots and is one of the best pure scorers in the country. This isn't to short Khris Middleton, who actually compares favorably with Hamilton. Middleton is only averaging 15.8 points per game, but he's shooting the ball very, very well (55% from two and almost 40% from three). He's also a much better facilitator than Hamilton.
Supporting Cast: Here's where things get interesting. Tristan Thompson is probably the third best player on the floor, but I think David Loubeau and Nathan Walkup are both better than the rest of Texas' rotation. Overall I'm going to call it a draw. Both sides match up very well with one another (also known as, neither team has a dominant seven footer).
Which brings this analysis to a draw. But the game is being played in Austin, which gives the Longhorns a big advantage. Texas A&M is yet to play a tough road game (their only road games came against Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Oklahoma), and they lost to Boston College on a neutral site. If there's a question mark in the Aggies' resume it's whether or not they can win on the road. This game should provide a lot of evidence, one way or the other. But I'm picking Texas. I like what I've seen from Rick Barnes' team all season, and I don't think they're going to drop one at home.