Texas A&M preview: Is it March yet?

A very unpredictable, frustrating, and at times downright inexplicable month of Kansas State basketball finally ends tomorrow night, and I for one am just ready to let the postseason get started and let things play out how they will. At this point, it seems like the best way to watch K-State basketball is to remember this was supposed to be a fringe tournament team and simply consider anything beyond that a freebie.

Of course, in reality that's virtually impossible now that we've seen just how good Angel Rodriguez, Rodney McGruder, Jamar Samuels, and lately Jordan Henriquez can be. It's only human nature to fantasize about what would happened if they all played at or near their best, which I suppose is somewhat close to what happened in the first half of that game at Columbia.

That's why games like Iowa State and Texas are so frustrating, to say nothing of the two unspeakable losses the 'Cats have suffered this season. Of course there's always an element of luck in basketball, but that hardly seems to explain the exhilarating and maddening second half of February for Frank and his team.

The real shame is that the month started off so normal with two easy home wins, though perhaps a game in which K-State shot 30 percent from the field and still won by 19 should have been an indication of a bumpy road ahead. And looking back at the A&M game, it seems bizarre to remember a time when K-State actually won a basketball game in the second half.

Perhaps it's fitting then, that we get some symmetry as the 'Cats look to go 4-0 against deserters this season. For a preview, click the jump.

Since it removed the parquet floor and awful off-brown color inside the 3-point line, Aggie no longer has the Ugliest Court in America (that distinction goes to either Idaho State or Oregon, in my mind). They also don't have much of a homecourt advantage, owning a 3-5 Big 12 home record this season.

Sadly, A&M does still play the ugliest style of basketball in the Big 12 (I don't call what happens in Lubbock "basketball") and we can expect to see another grind-it-out, defensive battle tonight. It's not easy to go 4-12 in league play despite never allowing more than 74 points in regulation, but Mark Turgeon's Billy Kennedy's team has managed to do it.

The key is an absolutely awful offense, though it has been improved a little since K-State last saw it with the return of Khris Middleton. He's the kind of tall, athletic slasher that has given the Wildcats problems in the past (he scored 18 on a bad shooting night last season) so you would hope stopping him will be a major focus for the defense.

I haven't seen an A&M guard that looked better than mediocre since Acie Law, but I guess Elston Turner is leading the team in scoring and dropped 18 in Manhattan. Then again, at 6-5, he's almost more like a small forward.

Inside, David Loubeau is a guy that will play hard and make Jamar, JO, or anyone else pay if they don't match his intensity, but I think K-State's bigs are more talented and, well, bigger. The Aggies are undersized and don't have a very deep bench, so it would look to be in K-State's best interests to pound the ball inside and attack the offensive glass hard.

Some good guard play and a 16-9 rebounding edge in the second half was the key to Kansas State pulling away in the first meeting, and I see no reason why the same formula can't be used again. The Aggies did get within single digits at home against everyone in the league's top six, with the exception of Iowa State, but this is not a team that will rise up and beat a Kansas State team that shows up to play.

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