Danuel House’s Offensive Explosion Carrying Texas A&M Toward NCAA Bid

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 24th, 2015

The fourth year appears to be the charm for Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M. At 18-7 overall and 9-4 in the SEC heading into tonight’s game at Arkansas, it looks like the Aggies are headed to their first NCAA Tournament in Kennedy’s tenure. A three-game winning streak that includes wins over bubble-buddy LSU, Florida and South Carolina has Texas A&M trending in the right direction. But being in this position wasn’t a certainty for the Aggies — the media in the preseason pegged them to finish ninth in the conference, and the only A&M player to appear on an all-SEC preseason list was Alex Caruso, who landed on the coaches’ expansive second team.

Danuel House has emerged as one of the most dangerous scorers in the SEC (247sports.com).

Danuel House has emerged as one of the most dangerous scorers in the SEC. (247sports.com)

That less-than-optimistic outlook reflected a team that had been rising at a slow rate under Kennedy. His first team was 4-14 in the Big 12; improved to 7-11 in the Aggies’ first year in the SEC; and then a tick up again to 8-10 in conference play last year. Texas A&M’s future outlook certainly got a lot brighter when Kennedy locked up a star-studded class of 2015, but what has propelled the Aggies up the standings in the current season has been the star they already had waiting in the wings: Danuel House. The former five-star recruit transferred to Texas A&M from Houston after James Dickey’s firing last spring, and since his clearance to play in November, no SEC transfer has arguably had a bigger impact on his new team. Going forward, no single player in the league may have as big a say in how his team fares this March.

Kennedy’s teams have struggled to score since he arrived in College Station, ranking 194th, 146th and 267th, respectively, in KenPom‘s adjusted offensive efficiency. But this year Texas A&M has boosted that figure to 71st in the country, and that level of offensive respectability has made all the difference next to the Aggies’ typically-stout defense. The biggest reason for the jump has been House, who has been Texas A&M’s best perimeter offensive threat since Elston Turner was dropping 40 points in Rupp Arena, and its best NBA prospect since Khris Middleton. House has scored 20 or more points five times in SEC play, and has hit three or more three-pointers in six games this season (including seven against South Carolina). House has also been capable of carrying the Aggies at times. In Texas A&M’s crucial, bubble-separation game against LSU, the junior scored eight points over a two-minute stretch in the second half to help turn an eight-point deficit into a two-point lead. It was the type of “put the team on my back” moment that few players are capable of, and came in a game the Aggies absolutely had to win.

It is not as if House’s emergence has been a shock, since he averaged over 12 points per game in his freshman and sophomore years at Houston. But what has been a shock has been his three-point shooting. House is shooting 43.0 percent from deep on 128 attempts, which is a vast improvement over what he had done coming into this year (32.4 percent). He’s become one the most dangerous shooters in the SEC, and a player who is capable of burning any defense that gives him a sliver of space. And with his length and athleticism he can hit contested shots even when there isn’t space. You can see how dangerous he is as a spot-up shooter in the possession below against South Carolina when Tyrone Johnson helps on an Alex Caruso ball-screen.

House - Spot Up

On the next possession, House’s form was just as good coming off some off-ball action.

House - Off-Ball

House is certainly not the only reason Texas A&M has been better at putting the ball in the basket this season. Fellow transfer Jalen Jones has carried the Aggies at times and Caruso, the 2013-14 SEC assists leader, has been just as prolific setting up his teammates this season. Senior Kourtney Roberson has also been big on the block as of late (17-of-22 over his last three games), but the respect House commands from deep is a great fit next to Caruso’s play-making ability, and opens up space for Jones and Roberson to go to work in the post. The one issue with House is that over 50 percent of his field goal attempts have come from distance, with only 29.4 percent coming at the rim. Given his excellent size and athleticism, you would think he’d be more willing to attack the basket. But you can’t argue with the rate that he’s knocking down all those threes, and his high percentage is not an anomaly given the frequency of his attempts. If he keeps pouring in points, no matter how he does it, Texas A&M could be a lower-seed that teams do not want to face next month.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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