Big 12 Team Previews: Texas A&M AggiesPosted by cwilliams on November 10th, 2011
Predicted finish: 3d
2010-11 season: 24-9 (10-6)
Head coach: Billy Kennedy, 1st season (currently on medical leave)
Key losses: B.J Holmes (9.7 PPG), Nathan Walkup (9.4 PPG)
With Mark Turgeon’s legacy at Texas A&M coming to an end this offseason because of his departure to Maryland, the Billy Kennedy era in College Station has officially begun. Luckily for Kennedy, he has a luxury many first-year coaches do not — a talented, experienced roster. The Aggies started last season strong but fizzled in the heart of conference play. They eventually fell to Florida State in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, an experienced and mature Aggie team hits the court of Reed Arena. A&M has not make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2007, despite making the field of
65 68 each season since. If Kennedy wants to make an immediate impact on this resurgent A&M basketball team, he will need to show they are more than a one-and-done program and that they can be a legitimate threat to earn a Final Four berth.
The Stars: All eyes will be on Khris Middleton, or as we like to call him, Maroon 22. Middleton is an athletic, dynamic player who is likely NBA-bound once there is such a thing again. He averaged 14.3 PPG last season, carrying the load for the Aggie offense. He is expected to do more of the same this season, as he’ll be the focal point in Kennedy’s new offense as well. Helping Middleton will be David Loubeau, a versatile inside player who can rebound, block shots and score. He has impressive athleticism, but needs to improve his consistency, especially when squaring off against bigger players.
The Veterans: Dash Harris and David Loubeau are the lone seniors in the starting rotation, with Jarod Jahns providing the vocal senior support from the bench. Loubeau and Harris will keep this team level-headed on the court, and will be able to pass their experience on to the younger players. Jahns, who has not been discussed much this offseason, has one of my favorite roles in college basketball — the senior walk-on. He will rarely see playing time, but I guarantee you’ll see him on TV, waving his towel from the bench, and screaming his support at the top of his lungs.
The Newbies: The Aggies have a handful of freshman coming in. Jamal Branch and Jordan Green are the new Aggie guards, while Grant Jolly and Daniel Alexander make up the new forwards. Both Branch are Alexander were ranked in Rival’s top 100 prospect list, while Green was in the top 150. The Aggies continue to utilize their home state pipeline, as all recruits are from the Lone Star State. Elston Turner will also be a new addition to the Aggies. He transferred to A&M from Washington and sat out last season due to NCAA transfer eligibility rules.
Breakthrough Candidate: Ray Turner has the athletic ability to be one of the most exciting players in the Big 12. Last season, many expected him to be the breakthrough candidate, speculation that was perhaps a bit premature. But Turner has had another offseason to mature and hone his game, and I think his points and rebounds will increase significantly this season.
Why They’re Better Than You Think: The Aggies have a roster that has been getting better each season. All the current players showed improvement last season, and I expect this season that trend will continue. Billy Kennedy is a proven coach who has a reputation for earning his player’s respect easily. If this team rallies around Kennedy’s leadership and Middleton’s star play, the Aggies could possibly be considered a darkhorse candidate for the Final Four.
Points of Concern: Anytime you have a new coach come in, the system is shaken up. The entire Aggie starting rotation has only played under Turgeon’s system, and it could take time for them to adapt to Kennedy’s style. Also, while Kennedy has proven himself as a strong mid-major coach, the first season in the Big 12 can sometimes be tough for coaches not used to the elite level of college hoops. Also, Middleton has never been the sole star of this team. He will be expected to call for the ball in every clutch situation, and every time the Aggies need a bucket, he will be the player looked to first. It remains to be seen how Middleton will respond to this increased responsibility.