No. 9 Tennessee plays its second road game of the season on Saturday afternoon when it travels to College Station to face Texas A&M at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The Vols (8-1, 2-1 SEC) enter the contest coming off of a 79-74 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Senior forward John Fulkerson scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half to spark a second half rally that allowed the Vols to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit.
Texas A&M (6-3, 1-2 SEC) lost to South Carolina 78-54 in its last game out. Emanuel Miller scored 17 of his career-high 28 points in the first half for the Aggies, who made a three to give them a 38-34 lead early in the second half. The Gamecocks answered with a 17-5 run and had a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with Texas A&M 8-6, dating to 1951, according to Tennessee’s game notes. The Vols are 3-2 when the game is played in College Station and have won the last two games at Reed Arena.
The Rocky Top Insider team makes their picks for Tennessee’s matchup with the Texas A&M Aggies. Managing editor Ben McKee, as well as RTI contributor Blake Von Hagen share their predictions for the Vols’ second road game of the season.
Texas A&M will test Tennessee more than most will anticipate. The Aggies thrive in areas that the Vols want to be great in. Buzz Williams’ second-year team is physical, wants to keep opponents out of the paint and rebounds the ball well. Tennessee wants to get into the paint in an effort to get to the free throw line. An area of emphasis over the offseason for the Vols was improving on the glass, an area the Vols struggled in last season.
Still, Tennessee should win this basketball game. The Aggies are not good on the offensive end of the floor, while the Vols remain one of the best defensive teams in the country. UT enters the game ranked fourth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 57.1 points per game. Defense will lead the Vols to yet another win on Saturday afternoon.
Pick: Tennessee, 64-52
MVP: Tennessee sophomore guard Josiah-Jordan James
James has been Tennessee’s most consistent player to this point in the season and it really showed in the win over Arkansas. He’s quickly becoming the voice of the team and as the coaches continue to encourage him to score, another big game is in store for James.
Texas A&M has been a completely different team at home this season. The Aggies have been blown out by LSU, South Carolina and TCU in road games, but they have picked up home victories over Wofford and Auburn. They are one of the worst offensive teams in the SEC to this point, ranking No. 160 nationally in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. Tennessee’s defense should be able to force turnovers, as the Aggies have struggled to handle the ball this year.
The Vols could be in for some turnover struggles themselves, though. Texas A&M’s defense is No. 14 nationally with a 25.1 percent turnover rate. One key matchup to watch is offensive rebounding, as Tennessee is No. 35 and Texas A&M’s defense is No. 249. I don’t expect this to be an easy-sailing game from start to finish. College Station is a tough trip to make for a Tennessee team that doesn’t have much experience on the road this season. That being said, the Vols have more depth, experience and athleticism than Texas A&M and should take care of business as double-digit favorites.
Pick: Tennessee, 72-67
MVP: Tennessee senior forward John Fulkerson
Fulkerson is averaging double digits this season and is coming off a solid second half against Arkansas. I expect Barnes to get Fulkerson the ball early in this game, where he will have a chance to draw some fouls on Texas A&M’s Emanuel Miller.