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Aggies And Noles Duel In What Should Be Defensive Struggle

The 10th-seeded Florida State Seminoles and the seventh-seeded Texas A&M Aggies meet this afternoon at the United Center for second round action in the NCAA Tournament's Southwest Region.

Florida State is making its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Overall, the Seminoles will be making their 13th showing in the Big Dance, where they sport a 12-12 all-time record. A win today would mark their first victory in the tourney since 1998. This season, Florida State compiled a 21-10 record and after receiving a first round bye, fell to Virginia Tech, 52-51, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Texas A&M will be making its school-record sixth consecutive appearance and 12th overall in the Big Dance. Last year, the Aggies advanced to the second round before falling to Purdue. They sport a 9-12 overall record in the Tournament. This season, Texas A&M earned a 24-8 record and bowed out of the Big 12 Championship with a 70-58 loss to Texas in the semifinals.

Florida State has won two of its three meetings with Texas A&M, although the teams have not since 1977-78.

Florida State finds success on the strength of its stellar defense, which enters the tournament ranked first nationally and first in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (36.4), ninth in blocked shots (9.7 bpg), 12th in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.1) and 13th in steals per game (8.8 spg). Overall, the Seminoles rank in the top-50 in the country in scoring defense (62.3 ppg), while posting a plus 4.7 rebounding margin. Leading the stifling effort is junior Chris Singleton, who was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He won the award despite missing a handful of games down the stretch due an injured foot, and his status will likely remain uncertain approaching game time. Singleton is tied for the team lead with 53 steals, and ranks second with 40 blocks. In addition, he remains Florida State's leading scorer (13.8 ppg) and rebounder (7.1 rpg). Derwin Kitchen (9.9 ppg), Michael Snaer (8.6 ppg) and Bernard James (8.4 ppg) add support, as the Seminoles score 69.3 ppg.

Texas A&M's defense is no slouch either, as it holds opponents to 61 ppg on 41.1 percent shooting. The Aggies are 23-5 this year they hold opponents under 50 percent shooting. They also pride themselves on getting to the line, and have attempted 181 more free throws than their opponents this season. The strategy has paid off, as Texas A&M is 20-2 when it shots more foul shots than its opponents. The attention to defense and foul shooting has provided a winning formula down the stretch, as the team is now 20-0 this year when holding the lead with five minutes to play. Sophomore Kris Middleton, a Second Team All-Big 12 pick, leads the Aggies at 14.3 ppg, while adding 5.3 rpg. Junior David Loubeau, a third-team selection, contributes 11.9 ppg. On the whole, the Aggies average 68.9 ppg on the offensive end of the floor.

Expect Texas A&M to earn the victory. It has developed a time-tested winning formula. While the Seminoles thrive on the defensive end of the floor, they will gain little advantage in that area today, as they face a similarly tough Aggies squad.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas A&M 69, Florida State 64

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