NCAAW Preview: It’s Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M in Sunday SEC clash

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 07 SEC Women’s Tournament - Kentucky vs Mississippi State
Bulldogs forward Rickea Jackson (jersey No. 5), who has been gaining steam as one of the best forwards in the country, has a tough matchup against the Aggies’ N’dea Jones. | Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Both Mississippi State and Texas A&M are coming off disappointing losses earlier in the week, raising the stakes in what should be a competitive game between two of the SEC’s best.

The No. 14 Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-3; 3-2 SEC) take to the road to face an SEC rival — and fellow ranked team — the No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies (12-1; 3-1 SEC). The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

While both Mississippi State and Texas A&M have been voted among the NCAA’s Top 25 teams in the AP poll, both are coming off upset losses in the past week. Mississippi State, in particular, has already dropped two conference games, with its last defeat coming to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 86-78, on Thursday. The Bulldogs have also dropped games to the No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats and No. 16 South Florida Bulls thus far.

Texas A&M, meanwhile, began the 2020-21 season with a 12-0 overall record before falling Thursday to the LSU Tigers in overtime 65-61 — a game in which the Aggies turned the ball over 21 times.

Sunday’s game, then, will be crucial for both the Bulldogs and Aggies as they try to get back on track. As their recent losses have shown, there’s little margin for error in the SEC this season, with South Carolina the conference’s highest-ranking AP team (No. 5) and Kentucky, Arkansas (No. 17) and Tennessee (No. 23) also appearing in the rankings.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 05 SEC Women’s Tournament - Arkansas vs Texas A&M
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Senior forward N’dea Jones leads a deep, well-rounded Aggies squad.

Both the Bulldogs and Aggies feature skilled, rangy forwards: Mississippi State’s Rickea Jackson and Texas A&M’s N’dea Jones. Incidentally, Jackson and Jones were recently ranked Nos. 16 and 17, respectively, on ESPN’s latest installment of its top 25 players in women’s college basketball, so we should be in for a fun frontcourt battle if the two are matched up consistently.

That’s not to say either of these teams are one-woman shows. Despite playing at lukewarm paces, the Aggies have four players averaging double-figures in points (Jones, Ciera Johnson, Aaliyah Wilson and Alexis Morris) and the Bulldogs have three (Jackson, Jessika Carter and Aliyah Matharu). Per Her Hoop Stats, the Aggies rank 22nd in the nation in points scored per 100 possessions (108.1) and the Bulldogs rank 31st (105.4), even when accounting for their recent losses.

Make no mistake; Mississippi State and Texas A&M are two deep and talented teams, and should both be playing with a chip on their shoulder after less-than-desirable weeks. The stage is set for a top-notch Sunday SEC matchup.

Game Information

No. 14 Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-3; 3-2 SEC) vs. No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies (12-1; 3-1 SEC)

When: Sunday, Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: Reed Arena; Bryan–College Station, TX

How to watch/listen: ESPN2, WatchESPN/Radio: 97.3 FM or MSU Radio Network or HailStatePLUS

Keys to the matchup: Jackson and Jones are the stars for their respective teams, but the Bulldogs and Aggies also field highly effective centers in Carter and Johnson, respectively. While the focus will be on the teams’ frontcourts, keep an eye on the Aggies’ outside shooting; they don’t take many of them, but they’re typically very accurate, knocking down 40.6 percent of their 3-point attempts. In the event of a close game — which, given the teams’ methodical styles of play and emphases on rebounding — a few timely jumpers could be the deciding factor.