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Texas A&M has a very high ceiling and a potentially low floor

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With so much talent leaving and not a lot of depth, a lot of people are higher on the Aggies than I am. Previewing the #7 Texas A&M Aggies

TAMU Record

#7 Texas A&M Aggies

Last Season: 28-9 (13-5) #19 in KenPom

My Prediction: 10 - 8 (7th in conference)

GoodBullHunting’s Prediction: 14 - 4 (2nd in conference)

The Masses Prediction: 12.3 - 5.7 (2nd in conference)

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Green Bay vs Texas A&M Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

HEAD COACH: Billy Kennedy | Sixth Season 99 - 77

It happened! Billy Kennedy was finally able to get the Aggies over the top in the SEC as they tied Kentucky for the league championship last year. The momentum the Aggies were able to build after the 2015 campaign turned into a riling success on the backs of a highly talented freshmen class and a group of seniors committed to establishing College Station as a place for basketball. An appearance in the Sweet 16 was the first step for Kennedy, who was probably feeling a little warmth on his seat, but sustaining the success is going to be the trick. Many gave the recruiting successes of the past few years to Rick Stansbury and not to Kennedy, but another name who was instrumental to the recruiting successes of the past few years was Kyle Keller, who took the job at Stephen F. Austin vacated by Brad Underwood. So now Kennedy has to replicate the recruiting wins plus the on the court wins of the past few seasons without his top two assistants. The reigning SEC Coach of the year will get to prove the success was more his doing than anyone else this season with a pretty deep and talented roster.

SEAT TEMP: COOL

Texas A&M 10 year look

Mark Turgeon had built a sustaining program before moving on to Maryland, and when he left so did a lot of talent. So when the program bottomed out a bit in Kennedy’s first season he had a bigger rebuilding program than he bargained for, and it took some time before the wins started to follow. Now Texas A&M has had two postseason runs in a row, and look poised for a third trip. So after a dip for a few years, has Kennedy got the Aggies back on the annual NCAA tournament trip?

WHO’S GONE?

name reason GP %min %pts %ov
Danuel House Graduated 36 .742 .199 .164
Alex Caruso Graduated 37 .711 .106 .233
Anthony Collins Graduated 37 .633 .058 .178
Jalen Jones Graduated 33 .601 .178 .086
Elijah Thomas Transfer 8 .052 .010 .007
Kyle Dobbins Graduated 13 .018 .005 .005
Juan Aparicio Graduated 12 .014 .001 .001
37 .554 .560 .677

Losing two-thirds of your offensive production from last season isn’t easy. Danuel House was a big time scorer capable of going off at any given moment. Jalen Jones was a matchup nightmare. Alex Caruso was a defensive specialist who honed in on his offense by the end of his stellar college career. Anthony Collins was a graduate transfer who provided exactly what Texas A&M needed in a steady ball handler and excellent assist man. Losing those four players is a blow as they were all uniquely responsible for the uptick in A&M basketball the last few years. Elijah Thomas transferred out early while being outplayed by Tyler Davis, he could’ve helped this season but opted to head to Clemson instead.

WHO’S BACK?

name year pos GP %min %pts %ov
Tyler Davis sophomore post 36 .546 .142 .074
Admon Gilder sophomore cg 37 .546 .091 .088
D.J. Hogg sophomore cf 37 .448 .081 .067
Tony Trocha-Morelos junior post 37 .429 .091 .074
Tavario Miller senior cf 36 .258 .026 .013
Kobie Eubanks sophomore wing 8 .024 .004 .004
T.J. Distefano sophomre cg 10 .009 .000 .000
Frank Byers sophomore wing 8 .006 .001 .000
37 .445 .439 .322
NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Texas A&M vs Oklahoma Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Davis | SOPHOMORE | POST

The key to Texas A&M’s season last year was the immediate impact Davis had on it early and often. Davis isn’t going to wow you with his athleticism, but he’s a guy who knows who he is and doesn’t try to do anything different. He’s a below the rim player, but a load of one. Davis shot 65% from the floor and didn’t attempt a 3-pointer because he plays within himself. I’d look for A&M to focus on getting Davis the ball early and often this year, hoping to cover up a few other deficiencies.

Admon Gilder is going to play a very big role this year. He played a lot last season and was productive when on the floor, with a larger role you’d expect more production right? Good, A&M needs him. Tony Trocha-Moreles has been a pretty underrated player for the Aggies, his seven points and four rebounds in 17 minutes last season were a big bonus. Tavario Miller also played a role as an unheralded role guy. He’s a physical combo forward who should be able to step it up a bit more this year and contribute. For me the big question of the returners is Kobie Eubanks, who was heralded coming out of high school and committed to, like, four different places before landing in College Station. He had to sit out a portion of the early season and never broke into the regular rotation but will be needed to help out this season.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Texas A&M Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

D.J Hogg | SOPHOMORE | COMBO FORWARD

Because of the presence of Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg flew under the radar a bit last season. Hogg is going to be more responsible for the success of the Aggies this year than Davis, because of his versatility and ability to shoot the ball. Hogg was a quiet contributor last year but will be looking for a breakout season in hoping he’ll be able to flash all the ways he can hurt you offensively. I like Hogg to get minutes at the four as well as on the wing because he has the size but also the ability to draw other bigs away from the basket. Look for Hogg to have a big season in College Station.

WHO’S NEW?

class player ht wt rating ranking pos
Fr Robert Williams 6'8 225 60 POST
Fr J.J. Caldwell 5'11' 180 65 PG
Fr Deshawn Corprew 6'5 190 114 CG
Fr Eric Vila 6'9 205 - POST
Fr Caleb Smith 6'0 175 - CG
Sr J.C. Hampton 6'1 180 GRAD TRANSFER -- Lipscomb CG

Both J.J. Caldwell and Deshawn Corprew were ruled ineligible this year to play, but both came in as well-regarded players who will help next season. Robert Williams is a bouncy forward and one of the top players in Louisiana last year who will be counted on for help early and often. Eric Vila has the ability to stretch the floor and is a very skilled post player from Spain, but certainly needs to add weight if he wants to contribute much this season. Caleb Smith is a crafty guard who comes in with little fanfare from a national recruiting profile but may be looked at to help early. A key play for the Aggies will be Lipscomb transfer JC Hampton who averaged nearly 16 points a contest in the Atlantic Sun last year. He played mainly off the ball but may be counted on to handle the early duties at point guard.

DEPTH CHART

Point Guard Combo Guard Wing
J.C. Hampton Admon Gildner D.J. Hogg
Caleb Smith Kobie Eubanks Tavario Miller
Combo Forward Post
Tony Trocha-Morelos Tyler Davis
Eric Vila Robert Williams

I feel pretty confident in Hampton and Gilder and their ability to handle point guard duties, after those two the pickings get slim. They’ll have to rely on Caleb Smith or Kobie Eubanks, who is more of a natural wing. They’ll need to dip into the reserves more than they would have wanted to had Corprew and Caldwell been eligible.

SCHEDULE

My Projected Record: 19 - 11 | KenPom Projected Record: 20 - 8

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Non-Con: Southern Cal, Cal-St Northridge (n), New Mexico/Va Tech (n), Arizona, @ West Virginia

The Wooden Legacy tournament could be a pitfall for the Aggies, but a first round matchup against Cal St-Northridge is obviously a winnable game. Northridge is the 178th team in KenPom preseason. After that they’d play either New Mexico or Virginia Tech, and if you go by preseason rankings it’d be Tech. On the other side of the bracket is Dayton, Nebraska and UCLA. The Aggies should win at least two of these games. Arizona will be tough again and travelling to West Virginia is no cake walk. I think nine wins is probably the goal, with 10 being optimal and certainly achievable.

Conference: Kentucky (2x), LSU (2x), Vanderbilt (2x), Missouri (2x), Arkansas (2x), @ South Carolina, @ Mississippi, @ Florida, Georgia

Having Kentucky twice is not ideal, but the Aggies can hang their hat on winning in Reed last year in hopes of winning another against the Wildcats. Outside of the five games at Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, A&M should be favored to win the rest. They’ll have to play well in road games at LSU and Mississippi and even MSU to pull out wins. And their home slate is on the easier side with Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and only Georgia being higher ranked (according to me) than the Aggies. Honestly, this makes their schedule tougher as they don’t get the more difficult games at home.

OVERVIEW

Last season was as good of a season as Texas A&M has ever had. They reached an AP high ranking of 5th in late January before settling on a final ranking of 15th. The only other season where A&M ranked higher was in 2007 where they finished 9th. That prompted Billy Gillispie to jump to Kentucky and A&M hired Mark Turgeon who took the ball and ran with four straight trips to the NCAAs. It seemed to all fall into place, with Billy Kennedy’s first real recruiting class becoming seniors added in with his best recruiting class to date and a couple key transfers in House and Jones. The rebound from the culmination of all things going right is where this all gets interesting.

Texas A&M Shot Chart from last season

With so many graduating high performers there is a host of young players who are going to take on a much larger role and do so in a consistent manner. The Aggies certainly have talent on this roster. With D.J. Hogg and Tyler Davis they have two guys who can score the basketball in a multitude of ways. The changing of the guard also means the focus offensively will go away from its perimeter attack with big physical guards like House and Caruso and head into the interior with a more traditional inside-out look in an attempt to get Davis as many touches as possible. There are enough guys who can knock down shots from the outside that it could work.

Asking young players to be consistent is often a challenge. Davis was consistent last season, but the primary focus switches to him this year which could be a lot to ask of a sophomore. Having Hogg and Gilder along with Trocha-Morelos and Hampton to help out will be important but their depth is a big concern for me. Coming off the bench they currently have only one player in Tavario Miller who has logged any minutes at this level. After him you’re just looking at some unheralded recruits plus Eubanks and Williams and that could be a problem.

So projections and preseason hype and all of that don’t mean much when the ball goes up, and there are enough question marks on the roster which give me pause before jumping on the bandwagon. The Aggies have a look and feel of a good but inconsistent team who still gets into the NCAA tournament but doesn’t quite get over the hump as a contender. I can see the high ceiling if they get all the breaks, I just think it’s asking a lot for this team to be a 12 game winner in conference. Now watch them make me look fooling.


About the preview: Each SEC site was asked to submit one representative to pick the entire league schedule game by game. Because these are game by game picks, they often tend to be a bit of a rosier picture of each teams potential. Each rep’s picks are reflected in the record prediction for the site listed at the top of the page, and within “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are various SEC media members who made picks at my request also.

If you’d like to submit your picks, here is the Google Form we used:


GLOSSARY

GP - Games Played

%min - percentage of total available minutes played, does not account for time missed due to injury

%pts - percentage of teams points scored

%ov - offensive team value, simple formula of (%points + %rebounds) - %turnovers/*100, similar to Offensive Rating but places more value on performance to the team