So, how good is this Texas A&M team the Cougars will face in Anaheim on Thursday?

Does first-year coach Mark Turgeon have a roster filled with gifted athletes who can make all kinds of plays, run circles around the Cougars, dunk with extreme power, turn on the light switch and are fast enough to still make it to the jump circle in time for tipoff?


Does Texas A&M have the physical presence, the bodies to pound away at BYU on defense and intimidate those Cougars with slighter builds?

Yup. Biggest team in school history with six players at least 6-foot-9.

Do the Big 12 Aggies possess enough depth at all positions to weather through foul trouble and still disrupt the Cougar offense like UNLV did in the second half Saturday night in the Thomas & Mack?

Yup, they've got more depth than the Rebels.

So, how is No. 8 seeded BYU going to deal with No. 9 Texas A&M in the NCAA first round, and can the Cougars get their first NCAA win in 15 years — since a Roger Reid-coached team defeated SMU in the Horizon in Chicago?

Well, it won't be easy, but if BYU can exploit A&M's weakness, which is the Cougar strength, then, yes, they can advance.

BYU's strength this season, and the primary reason they won the MWC by two games and a record 14-2 mark, is consistency.

Texas A&M's biggest challenge this season has been establishing consistency. The Aggies lost five of their final seven games.

They had a 20-point lead on Arizona and lost by 11. In the second half of the season, some pundits say the Aggies were one of the most inconsistent teams in the country.

But, having said that, if the Aggies shine, they could do exactly what UNLV did to the Cougars the last time out.

A&M doesn't have a star scorer. It's a team that finds how the flow of the game goes and any number of seven players can get hot and lead the Aggies.

They have a 7-0 freshman center DeAndre Jordan, who at 253 pounds, is a load, and yes, if he gets it low, he can finish with orange paint on his elbows.

The top scorer is Josh Carter, the best outside shooter, a guy who led the nation in 3-point accuracy a year ago. He hasn't shot at that clip this year, but he's capable of filling it up.

In their last few postseason appearances, BYU's Achilles Heel has been opposing point guards who dominate play at critical times. The Aggies have a pair of combo guards in Dominique Kirk and Donald Sloan who are handling point guard duties. If they are capable of breaking down BYU's defense coming off screens or drives, the Cougars will be in trouble.

A&M's best chance at defeating the Cougars may be with a power game, riding the talent and fast-developing skills of the 7-foot freshman.

I think if A&M tries to trade 3s with the Cougars, it favors BYU.

Both teams struggle at the line. A&M is the worst free-throw shooting team in the Big 12 with a 63-percent accuracy.

The Cougars can shoot 85 percent from the line, if the ball is in the hands of three players.

So, how will this one go down?

Like most 8 versus 9 games, it's gotta be about 50-50.

But if you told me Trent Plaisted scores more than 15, and/or Jonathan Tavernari hits six 3-pointers, I'd pick Dave Rose's guys.

E-mail: [email protected]