2. Texas A&M Aggies
Last season: 21 - 12 (11-7 in conference)
My Prediction: 14 - 4 (in conference)
GoodBullHunting's Prediction: 15 - 3 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 12.4 - 5.6
After taking over a program elevated by Mark Turgeon, Billy Kennedy struggled to maintain the level of success that A&M had grown accustomed to in the preceding years. The Aggies went from an NCAA team to a bottom rung Big 12 team in just a season. The move to the SEC didn’t exactly help Kennedy light the world on fire, but before last season he hired Rick Stansbury, and at the same time as some of his younger recruits were maturing, Stansbury helped solidify some of the recruiting issues that A&M had been having, and suddenly the Aggies were considered one of the better teams in the SEC. Texas A&M’s patience with Kennedy should pay off this year as he’s got the team right where he wants them, a strong recruiting class, a host of returning players, and a team that is a darkhorse to win the SEC.
WHO THEY LOST
Kourtney Roberson was an important guy to the Aggies during their struggle to gain traction in the SEC. He was a reliable beefy inside player who was good for close to 10 points a game and was a good rebounder as well. Jordan Green didn’t always contribute much in the box score, but was often credited for his leadership over the last few years. Peyton Allen looked to be more of a victim of numbers as he transferred to Wichita State after a solid showing as a freshman. Avery Johnson was a walk on who followed his dad to Alabama, so that’s not much of a loss. Antwan Space left for his post-graduate year after a couple up and down years at A&M. Space always flashed high potential as a combo forward but never was able to find the impact he was searching for. Dylan Johns and Davonte Fitzgerald both transferred to Cal-State Northridge and Minnesota (respectively) after playing less and contributing less than their freshmen seasons. Overall the losses of Roberson and Green are important for the leadership and consistency they brought, but it’s easy to see how the Aggies can make up for their absence.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
The story of the Aggies is who they have coming back from a strong team a season ago. Two instant impact transfers helped the Aggies transition from being a middle to bottom team in the SEC to one that can contend for a league title. Jalen Jones and Danuel House helped right away as both players were the leading scorers on a team that was a late 3 game fade from the NCAA tournament. Jones is a sturdy combo forward with great back to the basket moves for a player his size, and House was the outside threat who is developing a more well rounded game after being a highly ranked 5-star player out of high school. Behind them in the scoring column was Alex Caruso, who is a bit of an enigmatic player for the Ags. Caruso is great with the ball in his hands as evidenced by his high assist rate, but he occasionally gets a little too shot happy, where that’s not really the strength of his game. Alex Robinson seemed to get stronger as the season went along, and is probably going to be looked at to start at the Point Guard this year. And the returners are rounded out by a duo of solid, if unspectacular players. Miller is more of a combo forward, while Trocha-Morales is a traditional big man. But competition down low could prove tough this season, because of who the Aggies are bringing in.
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
And all of the sudden Texas A&M is apparently a basketball school. The presence of Rick Stansbury on the staff in College Station helped the Aggies get in the door with some very highly rated players and it’s helped land one of the top classes in the SEC. D.J. Hogg is probably the highest rated, another combo forward but one who can absolutely shoot the lights out from the perimeter. Tyler Davis and Elijah Thomas are almost clones of each other as they’re both big below the rim post players who aren’t the most athletic, but have big bodies and will take up space, rebound and contribute points early. I would guess there’s a likelihood that one could start early, and both will figure into the rotation. Gildner is another nice pickeup, the top 100 guard has the ability to help early on, and the potential to be a big time guy in the near future.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Alex Robinson||Alex Caruso||Danuel House|
|Admon Gildner||D.J. Hogg||Tavario Miller|
|Jalen Jones||Tyler Davis|
|Elijah Thomas||Tony Trocha-Morales|
You could see the flashes from Alex Caruso as a freshmen. He’s incredibly fun to watch when he plays within himself, he just needed some players around him to take the pressure off trying to score. Caruso is not at his best when he’s taking shots, he’s at his best as a facilitator. Even with Alex Robinson on the roster, look for the bulk of the facilitation to happen through Caruso. He’s got a high volume scorer at the wing with Danuel House, and he’s got a great mid-level scorer in Jalen Jones. The four freshmen should provide enough spark to keep them in the loop and Hogg is the kind of player who might even end up challenging House and Jones for the scoring lead most nights.
There could be some concern over depth on the perimeter. After Robinson, Caruso and Gildner, the ball handling gets a little light. House and Hogg aren’t great ball handlers, Jones and Miller are more comfortable as a post-up player. And the rest of the roster is loaded with more natural centers. As long as the top 3 keep their health there shouldn’t be a problem, but losing just one guy for a period of time could be an issue.
I wouldn’t worry about post depth. With the two big freshmen coming in, plus Jalen Jones, Tony Trocha-Morales and Tavario Miller (even DJ Hogg can contribute there) the Aggies will be fine. They could be one of the better rebounding teams with the combination of size and beef on the interior, but also a host of guards with good size and the ability to rebound.
Defensively they’ll be tough, as all of Kennedy’s teams have been in the past. The key to this season is whether they’ll find the consistency offensively that they lacked a year ago. Consistency will mean that Caruso is more facilitator than shooter, that House adds more to his offensive arsenal, and that the young players step into the roles they need to. If all that happens Texas A&M will be a tough out for even the best teams in the country.
For these reasons the Aggies are going to be an interesting team to track. They have a high ceiling with talent and experience at the top, and inexperience but high talent with their depth. The ceiling for this team is quite high, perhaps amongst the highest in A&M history, which is saying something for the job that Kennedy has done in a short amount of time. Once considered on the hot seat, he’s now got the program making big strides both on the court and in recruiting. I’ve got their record at 14-4, and I think that’s realistic. Kenpom has a projected 11-7, which is possible as well, but I think that’s more like the floor for this team. If the Aggies are riding around 11-7 that means that something went wrong to cause that. More than likely I think they end up somewhere between 12-6 and 14-4.
The Texas A&M fanbase is in a weird place this year. This year’s squad + incoming recruits are in an inarguably strong place, but many simply can’t ignore the previous swoons of the BK era. As basketball season ramps up, I have been trying to convince our fans to enjoy this season in a vacuum… but most simply can’t get over Kennedy’s admittedly poor record at A&M to this point.
I’m hoping they change their mind, because this year’s squad is absolutely loaded. The three most impactful players (by a pretty clear margin) return for their senior season, and the most highly touted recruiting class in program history will almost certainly be able to fill any gaps left through graduation/transfer attrition. The aggregate result is a two deep (pictured above) that will be 'out-talented' against precisely one SEC opponent (Kentucky) this season.
But it's not all about talent. Because while this team has the horses to simply roll the ball on the court and finish comfortably above .500, their ceiling will be defined by the following three questions:
1) Can Alex Caruso maintain his effectiveness off-ball? We have asked so, so much of Caruso over the past three years, and his MPG (and nature of his usage) have worn him down for critical late-season games. In order for him to be effective in March, we need to dial his involvement back a bit... and in order to do that, we need effective possessions without him pulling the strings. He worked mostly off-ball in Wednesday’s open scrimmage, and it appears we’re going to try to let Collins/Robinson run the show. I should note that we’ve had similar intentions before, and at the first sign of trouble we panicked and threw him at the point for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see if we stay the course.
2) Can Davis and Thomas replace Roberson's production? Kourtney's post moves were nothing to write home about, but he was a warrior inside. He gave us big minutes in big games, and he was a plus defender/rebounder throughout conference play. Can two fish replicate that production? The learning curve will have be quick, as our non-conference ramps up quicker than usual.
3) Will the fans finally buy in? I mentioned it at the outset... but a big portion of our fans are jaded. Their response to success has often come with a "when will the other shoe drop" hesitation, and to their credit the other shoe has always dropped. Last season's 1-4 nosedive out of the NCAA's down the stretch was an especially painful example. Can the fans who want BK gone truly enjoy success this year? Can we get a true home court advantage for the first time since the Mark Turgeon era? If the team gets rolling and the crowds follow, we could have something special on our hands.
Overall, barring an injury to House or Caruso, I predict a top four seed in the SEC and a mid-tier berth in the NCAA's.
|DerekAggie06||Good Bull Hunting|
Looking back on the 2014-2015 season for A&M, I am baffled that there was any thought that this team was going to go dancing in March. I mean sure they beat a bunch of teams, but they didn't beat any good teams. Also, that choking sound you heard last March, yeah, that was coming from College Station. So much Alex Caruso face! But, these are the types of seasons you need to build on. Step 1, getting the players, step 2, beating the crappy teams of the SEC, step 3 winning in March. You see Aggies you forgot step 3! But, fear not, the SEC has decided that because you and Mizzou were paired together in the Big 12 well you guys must have some rivalry, so you get two games against the worst team of all time, if you believe the national media. But we're talking about the Aggies. Frankly speaking, they don't lose all that much that they don't replace with anyone better. Sure, Kourtney Roberson is gone (probably the only guy you've heard of) and Avery Johnson left to coach 'Bama, but other than that, they don't lose a thing. A team that was good enough to beat the dross of the conference went and got itself a recruiting class to go along with the strong pieces they already have. And my friends this is not right. When we entered this conference together the Aggies were supposed to be the good football team and we the good basketball team. SO KNOW YOUR ROLE AGGIES! Go back to being bad, do it now. There are narratives that must be maintained. Mizzou went full barf all over itself mode this current football season (and last basketball season come to think of it) so now it's your turn. Reciprocate! I expect by mid January to be hearing about Alex Caruso and Danuel House to be running an illegal cock fighting ring (not the bad kind, the kind Kramer thought Little Jerry Seinfeld would fight in, with gloves and helmets, the cute kind) in your student center all sponsored by Billy Kennedy and with the complete knowledge of the AD. Get us back to good A&M, we're right here waiting...
About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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