With the season set to start in two days, I thought it was necessary to fill the eight month void left since the last Texas A&M Basketball article.
The Aggies ended the season on a sour note, losing to a much better UCONN team 92-66. They were just out-matched last year by the Huskies and are looking to prove they are ready to get back to the level they were at during the Billy Gillispie days.
The Aggies are amidst the best run in the program's history. They have made the NCAA tournament four years in a row, winning their first matchup in all four seasons. Before this run, they had never made the tournament more than two consecutive seasons.
Coach Mark Turgeon realizes the struggles his team will have to compete with teams with outstanding post play, but thinks they will be able to cope by being a faster, better conditioned team.
"I think we have a lot of versatility in things we can do offensively and defensively," he said. "We’re really fast. We’ve got a lot of speed. We’re trying to play a little bit faster."
It is clear he wants to make a statement early, as two top 25 teams are scheduled in non-conference. This is a major difference from years past, when the Aggies were rarely tested before Big 12 play.
A&M will be led by three seniors from Dallas in Derrick Roland, Donald Sloan, and Bryan Davis. The three are leftovers from the 2006 team that went to the Sweet 16.
Sloan had some pretty big shoes to fill after Acie Law graduated, and has played pretty well considering the expectations. Sloan averaged 11.8 points and 3.2 assists per game last year, leading Turgeon's offense as well as could be expected.
Derrick Roland is very similar what Dominique Kirk brought in that he is the best defender in the Big 12. If there is one thing that has been consistent in these last four seasons, it has been A&M is always one of the best defensive teams in the country.
Bryan Davis has made leaps and bounds in terms of his development as a post presence. It was infuriating to watch him play early on in his career, when he looked confused and sloppy on the court. That has all but disappeared, but he still needs to work on his rebounding.
After losing Chinemelu Elonu to the NBA draft, sophomore David Loubeau will need to live up to his potential and step his game up this year. Loubeau was one of the most sought after recruits last year—rated in ESPN's top 100—but failed to get much playing time because of Davis and Elonu.
Dash Harris was also a top 100 recruit that came in last year, but did not get much playing time. He was rated a top five point guard by ESPN, but will still be a back up so long as Sloan is around.
Almost as if by design, Turgeon had a recruit in waiting to replace Josh Carter as a shooter. Khris Middleton was rated the No. 17 shooting small forward by ESPN, as well as the No. 64 prospect nationally. Combined with Nathan Walkup, the team will always be able to spread the floor with their three-point shooting.
The freshman who will probably have the biggest impact is their No. 1 overall recruit, Naji Hibbert. Hibbert led his team to a state championship, and was rated the No. 59 recruit by ESPN. Hibbert will undoubtedly come in and be a spark off the bench as a shooting guard.
A&M 's arrival as a top tier basketball program has been a complete surprise to many people. This season will go a long way in determining Turgeon's impact, considering his own players are beginning to be counted more and more.
The Aggies are out to surprise everyone this year. Mark my words: they will crack the top 20 at some point. It will be tough to compete in the Big 12 this year—widely considered the deepest it had been in a long time—but A&M will be up to the task.