After Disappointing Season, Texas A&M Looks to Return to SEC Prominence

Posted by David Changas on October 24th, 2017

By any measure, the 2016-17 Texas A&M basketball season was a colossal disappointment. After being picked by virtually everyone to finish near the top of the SEC standings and easily make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, the Aggies struggled to an 8-10 finish in league play and missed out on postseason play altogether. Last year’s disappointing outcome has not, however, tempered expectations for this year’s team. Once again, the Aggies are expected to challenge for a league championship and easily qualify for the Big Dance. And those expectations are just fine with two of A&M’s stars — Robert Williams and Tyler Davis — who talked about the upcoming season last week in Nashville. When asked about his goals this year, Williams did not mince words: “San Antonio” — the site of the 2018 Final Four. Davis, for his part, was more measured, instead discussing the need to focus on getting better each day. Regardless of how each player answered that question, both know that expectations are high in College Station, and with good reason.

Robert Williams showed his excitement about the upcoming season at SEC Media Days. (RTC Staff)

Davis also talked about improved team chemistry this year, hinting that some members of last season’s squad were not on the same page with head coach Billy Kennedy. “I know he was limited [by] his resources, when it came to game time,” Davis said. “That obviously puts pressure on you as the coach. This year, he’s the same guy every single day; expects the same things out of us. It’s just, are his players willing to give it to him every day in practice.” Last season’s finish aside, it appears there is good reason for high expectations. Texas A&M returns all five of its starters, including Williams and Davis, who could combine to form the best big-man tandem in the SEC. The former, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, credits his maturity for a decision to return to school despite being projected as a likely lottery pick. He also thinks another year battling against Davis in the post during practice should improve his game. “We are awesome with each other,” Davis said. “We’ve gotten to the point where we know what each other’s going to do. We try to memorize each other’s games and help each other.”

In addition to the Aggies’ pair of standout big men, Texas A&M returns starters Admon Gilder (13.7 PPG) and DJ Hogg (12.0 PPG) in the backcourt, as well as senior center Tonny Trocha-Morelos (5.2 RPG). Kennedy also adds point guard JJ Caldwell, a top-75 freshman from the class of 2016 who was forced to sit out last season with academic issues. There is clearly a buzz around the program about his addition, although he will have to sit out the first five games of this season after a violation of university policy. Marquette transfer Duane Wilson will fill the void as the lead in his absence, and there is no question the Aggies are in much better shape at that position than they were last anytime last season when the deficiency was glaring.

The pressure to succeed will be on Kennedy, as the residual goodwill from a Sweet Sixteen run two years ago was largely wiped away by last year’s disappointment. “I’m excited because I know we’ve got good players at every position,” he said. “We’ve got size, length, top-100 players. Unfortunately, talent can underachieve.” Kennedy pointed to the character and leadership on this year’s team, indicating that it reminds him of the 2016 squad that gutted out one of the greatest last-minute comebacks in NCAA Tournament history. He will need everything to gel quickly as he thinks there is no question the league is much improved over last year — the “most talented” the SEC has been since he arrived in Texas. The bottom line is that with national media projecting a near-Top 25 team, experience and talent across the lineup including a potential lottery pick big man, there will be no excuses for this year’s team.

David Changas (133 Posts)


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