The Texas A&M Aggies has sort of floated around the fringes of the polls over the last few weeks, receiving votes in one or the other but never joining the #21/22 Washington Huskies among the best 25 teams in the country.
With Washington visiting tomorrow, TAMU will be in their strongest position yet poll-wise receiving nine votes in the AP Poll and five in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
Yet as much as people have talked about this being Washington's first test as their first true road game of the season against one of the nation's better teams, it's just as much a test for Texas A&M - Washington will be the first ranked team they've played all season.
And the biggest challenge for the Huskies might be familiar.
Key statistical battleground: offensive rebounding
Although one of the biggest problems in TAMU's lone loss to Boston College was their shooting efficiency, most of that could be attributed to poor 3-point shooting: they went 0-for-6 in the first half before hitting 7-for-14 in the second half. And having shot 37.6 percent for the season, that would seem unlikely to happen again even against stronger competition.
However, the bigger challenge in this game might be UW controlling Texas A&M on the glass, which is becoming something of a theme this season even if it's bound to get better. TAMU is beating their opponents on the offensive boards by nearly five rebounds a game and their rebounding has been their most consistent strength even in their loss.
Perhaps what's most noticeable about this team is they rebound in a manner similar to that of how Lorenzo Romar-coached team's rebound - nobody averages more than six rebounds per game. But among their top rebounders is Nathan Walkup.
Nathan Walkup, F (6-foot-7, 210, Sr.)
In addition to being one of the top 20 most efficient scorers in the nation, Walkup is among the team's strongest offensive rebounders and the second leading rebounder overall with 5.2 per game. However, his improved three point shooting (52.4 percent) this year and team-high free throw rate are part of what has made him a more efficient player on the offensive end. His offensively versatility makes him a unique threat and someone to watch.
B.J. Holmes, G (5-foot-11, 175, Sr.)
Although more of a distributor than leading scorer Khris Middleton (13.8 ppg), Holmes is more than capable as a scorer as one of the team's three 3-point shooters shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc (41.5 percent) and a free throw rate second to Walkup with just over three attempts per game. But his numbers as a distributor have been most impressive turning the ball over on only 11 percent of his possessions while creating an assist on nearly 30 percent.
Wrapping up the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series
As described by SBN's Big XII Hoops, the game also has significance for whatever bragging rights are involved in winning this Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
Big 12 / Pac-10 Hardwood Series Continues: Washington Huskies and Texas A&M Aggies Looking Past Last Year's Roland Injury - Big 12 Hoops
The Aggies (8-1) are led by sophomore forward Khris Middleton's 13.8 ppg. David Loubeau leads in rebounds and B.J. Holmes is the leading assist and steals guy on the squad.
A win by Texas A&M and the Big 12 will win the series. A win by Washington and the series comes down to Tuesday's Stanford-Oklahoma St. meeting.
But most of all, it's a chance for TAMU to prove themselves against one of the nation's top teams and a chance for Washington to prove themselves on the road before conference play begins.