SEC M5: 11.21.14 Edition

Posted by David Changas on November 21st, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. The Puerto Rico Tip-off got underway on Thursday, and another opportunity for the SEC to pick up a quality non-conference win went by the wayside as Texas A&M fell to Dayton in the tournament’s opening game. The contest was a back-and-forth affair that the Flyers won on a Devon Scott tip-in with two seconds left. The ugly 55-53 game, in which the Aggies shot 34.6 percent from the field, saw no team take a lead larger than six points. Despite the loss, coach Billy Kennedy got strong performances from his best two returning players, Kourtney Roberson and Alex Caruso. Roberson grabbed 13 first half rebounds on his way to a game-high 15, and scored 12 points to boot. Caruso, a Cousy Award semi-finalist, poured in 17 points to go with five assists. Kennedy, though, had to be disappointed in the lack of production from three newcomers he will need a lot from: Alex Robinson, Jalen Jones, and Peyton Allen. The trio combined for 13 points in 66 minutes of action. If Texas A&M is going to surprise anyone in the SEC, it will need more from that threesome going forward.
  2. After dropping a close game to Miami earlier this week, Florida gets forward Chris Walker back from a three-game suspension for its upcoming game against Louisiana-Monroe. For the Gators to reach their goals this season, Walker will have to be an important piece of the Gators’ roster. He missed the first semester of last season due to academics, and he was only a minor contributor on the team’s run to the Final Four after that. This year, however, much more is expected of him, and coach Billy Donovan is pleased with what he has seen from the sophomore and thinks he is getting more comfortable with the idea of doing the dirty work inside for the Gators.
  3. The college basketball world is still abuzz after Kentucky’s 72-40 dismantling of Kansas on Tuesday night, and the Wildcats return to the court tonight for a home game against Boston University. Much has been made of coach John Calipari‘s platoon system, and it appears to be having a significant effect in the second halves of the Wildcats’ games, as they are simply throttling opponents after the break. Overall, Kentucky currently ranks second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and first in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy. The Wildcats also lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing over half of their misses. The game against the Terriers is the first of four home games that they should win handily before December brings tougher contests against Texas, North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville.
  4. With the pall of the NCAA mess hanging over him, Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall got his first win as the Volunteers’ head coach Thursday. The 70-58 win over Texas Southern did not come easily, as the game was tied at the half. Josh Richardson, who is being forced to handle the point guard duties because Tyndall has no one else to turn to, led the team in both scoring and rebounding, as the senior netted 19 points and grabbed eight boards. It is impossible to say what will come of the NCAA mess and whether Tyndall’s job truly is in jeopardy or whether this team is being impacted by the situation, but it is hard to imagine there isn’t some effect. Regardless, this is a team that was picked to finish 13th in the SEC even before it was known that Tyndall could be in hot water, and the early returns have shown why.
  5. Bruce Pearl‘s team may have taken one on the chin at Colorado Monday night during the Tip-Off Marathon, but once again, the Auburn coach was able to steer the conversation away from the Tigers’ poor performance. On Wednesday, video of Pearl nailing a trick shot from the upper deck of Auburn Arena emerged, and, as with most of his promotional gimmicks, Pearl entertains. Based on the early play of his team, Pearl has a long year ahead of him on the Plains, but the coach clearly is happy to be back in the game after serving his three-year show cause penalty, and with reinforcements on the way, it is unlikely anything can deter him from having fun.

 

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SEC Season Preview: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by David Changas on November 12th, 2014

The SEC microsite will preview each of the league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Texas A&M.

Texas A&M Aggies

Strengths. The Aggies feature junior point guard and Cousy Award semifinalist Alex Caruso, as well as three of the team’s four leading scorers from last season. Texas A&M also landed SMU transfer Jalen Jones, who left the Mustangs last fall and will be eligible immediately. In the team’s exhibition opener, a win against Texas A&M-Commerce, Jones led the team in scoring and rebounding, something he figures to do frequently this year. He averaged 14.0 PPG and 7.7 RPG two seasons ago for SMU, a program he left because of a dispute with head coach Larry Brown over playing time. So while the junior forward may arrive with some baggage, he will make up for the much needed scoring and rebounding that was lost when Jamal Jones and J-Mychal Reese left the program. The Aggies also return forwards Kourtney Roberson and Davonte Fitzgerald, who averaged 9.8 and 7.3 points per game last season, respectively. In addition, they added a top-100 recruit in guard Alex Robinson, who is likely to start. Texas A&M was a solid defensive club last season, and even though leading scorer Jones left the program under inauspicious circumstances, there is some talent on this roster.

Alex Caruso led the SEC in assists last season. (d1nation.com)

Alex Caruso led the SEC in assists last season. (d1nation.com)

Weaknesses. According to Kenpom.com, Texas A&M ranked 267th in the country in offensive efficiency last season, and the Aggies were 308th in points per game. With the departure of the team’s most prolific perimeter shooter, the burden will fall on Jalen Jones to pick up the slack. Robinson appears to be a solid incoming three-point shooter, but Billy Kennedy’s club likely will struggle to put the ball in the basket once again. Caruso was the SEC’s assist leader last season, but he is a mediocre shooter from distance (33%) and Kennedy does not appear to have many options beyond that. The Aggies are picked to finish ninth in the 14-team SEC, and without more output on the offensive end, there is no reason to think they can outperform that prediction.

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Billy Kennedy Is Running Out of Players to Start a Crucial Season

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 5th, 2013

Billy Kennedy faces a pivotal year at Texas A&M. The Houston Chronicle reported last week that Aggies’ athletic director Eric Hyman recently told Kennedy that he must make the postseason to keep his job. This comes after a 31-32 overall record with no postseason appearances in his first two years. Everything is on the line now for the third-year coach, and he’s been put in an even tighter spot as two players he is counting on for big contributions in 2013-14 will miss the start of the season. Sophomore guard J-Mychal Reese was suspended by the school last week for a violation of athletic department rules, and CBSSports‘ Jeff Borzello reports that Reese is expected to miss three games. As a freshman, Reese didn’t play particularly well last year, but he has the third highest assist percentage of returning Texas A&M players (a pedestrian 15.2 percent). His three-point percentage was a solid 36 percent on 55 attempts, but his field goal percentage (also 36 percent) leaves something to be desired. Still, he earned considerable experience (26.2 minutes per game) on a team where only four returning guards averaged over 12 minutes per game.

Billy Kennedy is down two important players in what is an important year for Texas A&M (photo courtesy usatoday.com).

Billy Kennedy is down two important players in what is an important year for Texas A&M (photo courtesy usatoday.com).

The Aggies are already without junior forward Kourtney Roberson, who is out indefinitely after experiencing a rapid heart rate last week. Fortunately, the condition doesn’t appear to be career or life-threatening, and he is expected to return to basketball activities in only a few weeks. The big man is an important part of the plan for the 2013-14 Aggies. He has excellent rebounding potential, as exhibited by a season in which he posted a defensive rebounding percentage of 20.8 percent and an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.8 percent. Roberson paired this with a solid 116.0 offensive rating, and he is tasked with replacing the production of Ray Turner.

There is some reason for optimism despite these early setbacks. Kennedy has length and athleticism that could be difficult for other teams to match. When Roberson returns, the head coach could run a lineup of the junior big man along with guards Alex Caruso (6’5”), Jamal Jones (6’8”), forward Antwan Space (6’8”), without a major sacrifice in ball-handling or quickness. Caruso and Jones are the keys to this idea. Caruso showed that he could distribute the ball as a freshman (27.9% assist percentage) but he turned it over too much (2.3 turnovers/game). Jones has offensive promise, averaging 18 points per game at the junior college level last year. If Caruso shows better discipline and Jones adjusts quickly to the next level, Kennedy will find himself in a good place with his backcourt.

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SEC Transition Basketball: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by Brian Joyce on September 6th, 2012

Let’s finish these off this week with the last few of what we’re calling it Transition Basketball, an offseason look at each of the 14 SEC basketball programs. Today’s update: Texas A&M.

State of the Program

Billy Kennedy’s first season in College Station came with high expectations. The Aggies were on a roll, making the NCAA Tournament in the previous five seasons, with junior Khris Middleton back to lead the way along with seniors David Loubeau and Dash Harris. Texas A&M was a consensus top 25 pick in the preseason, and a popular choice to finish in the top echelon of the Big 12 with national powerhouses Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri. However, the popular pick isn’t always the right pick. Mark Turgeon left the cupboard fully stocked with athleticism and experience, but after an 8-1 start, the Aggies fell flat the rest of the way going 6-17 the remainder of the season. Bad fortune struck the Aggies when 6’9″ forward Kourtney Roberson went down in late December with an ankle injury and freshman Jamal Branch decided mid-season that he wanted to transfer to St. Johns. Harris and Middleton were both slowed by injuries. Unfortunately for A&M fans, even with a little luck on their side, it’s not likely the team’s win column will improve drastically in its first season in the SEC.

Kennedy can’t afford another disappointing effort in College Station

Though three key pieces (Middleton, Loubeau, and Harris) from last year are gone, several role players could step up to fill those roles. There is promise down low in 6’9″ forwards Ray Turner (9.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG) and Roberson (4.6 PPG and 4.9 RPG) who is back along with a bill of good health after he was granted a medical hardship for his injury last season. 6’5″ guard Elston Turner scored a solid 13.8 points per game in his first year in College Station and will likely need to score with even more efficiency this year for the Ags to be successful. But is that enough for Kennedy’s club to make significant improvement?

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Big 12 Weekend Primer

Posted by dnspewak on December 17th, 2011

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • Texas A&M (8-1) at Florida (7-2), Orange Bowl Classic, Saturday 1:30 p.m. CT
Starting next season, these two programs will battle each other annually in the SEC. Until then, Texas A&M and Florida will settle for playing each other in the Orange Bowl Classic, a neutral-site game set in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies are a wild card in the Big 12 right now, as they’ve built their 8-1 record against mostly inferior competition– and, more importantly, they have played all but two games without All-Big 12 wing Khris Middleton. The 6’7” junior has missed the majority of the season recovering from knee surgery, returning in time for A&M’s most recent victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Although Middleton hadn’t played since the season opener, he seemed perfectly healthy in torching the Warhawks for 24 points. His return gives Texas A&M an entirely different look on both ends of the floor, so much that it would be worthless to judge the seven games it played without Middleton. For instance, A&M fell flat against the best team on its schedule without him, falling behind by more than 20 points in the first half at Madison Square Garden. That’s why Florida will let Billy Kennedy truly gauge his team for the first time in 2011-12. Though forward Kourtney Roberson is still questionable for the contest, A&M could solidify itself as a Big 12 contender by knocking off the Gators in a quasi-road environment.

Texas A&M Will Play A "Neutral" Game in The State of Florida Against the Gators

The key individual match-up is… Dash Harris vs. Erving Walker. Although Texas A&M’s schedule has not been demanding, this team could have really slipped had Dash Harris not played so steadily. The senior point guard is known for his defense, but offensively, Harris has kept the Aggies afloat without Middleton by making good decisions and taking care of the basketball. He won’t score much, but he’s irreplaceable as a distributor in this offense. And as a defensive stopper, he has the skills to slow down Erving Walker. Harris has a few inches on Walker, and he’s as quick as any guard in the nation. No matter the defender, though, it’s up to Walker to rise to the challenge. He looks to score much more than Harris, and at times, he has looked terrific with the ball in his hands. When he has struggled, it has been his own fault: against Arizona, for example, he settled for quick threes and forced up 16 shots. If he doesn’t settle down against Harris, Walker could be in for a tough night.

Texas A&M will win if… it continues to dominate on the defensive end. This program’s attitude from former coaches Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon has carried over to Kennedy’s team. The Aggies are all about defense, rebounding and physicality, but they will have their hands full with the explosive Gator guards. Though Middleton’s blend of size and athleticism is a tough match-up for every team, Florida has excellent backcourt speed in Kenny Boynton, Brad Beal, Mike Rosario, and Walker. A&M has to find a way to lock down those guards and force them into tough shots. In that Arizona victory, Billy Donovan was not happy with the shot selection of his guards. Against a team like A&M, Florida will have to settle down and run its stuff efficiently to have a chance.
Florida will win if… it can control the paint. Texas A&M likes to think it’s tougher than you– David Loubeau and Ray Turner are intimidating physical specimens, and this team rebounds with authority around the basket. UF is no slouch in that category this year. Patric Young might be the best forward on the floor on Saturday, and sophomore Will Yeguete has done a nice job since entering the starting lineup in late November. Neither team is especially deep up front, but A&M could get a big lift if Kourtney Roberson is healthy.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 4th, 2011

  1. Billy Gillispie’s exhibition debut at Texas Tech resulted in a victory, but it wasn’t a banner performance by any means. Tech trailed by four at halftime to Southwestern Oklahoma before scrapping out a 76-70 victory. The game went to the wire as the Red Raiders led by just two points with 10 seconds remaining. Although Gillispie’s entire team is essentially composed entirely of newcomers, it was two returners who led the way on Thursday night. Sophomore Javarez Willis scored 22 points while Robert Lewandowski, the lone senior on the team, chipped in 18 points. It wasn’t a pretty start start for Texas Tech, but a win’s a win, as they say.
  2. Gillispie’s old school, Texas A&M, had a little less trouble in its exhibition match-up with Dallas Baptist. Khris Middleton’s 20 points led the Aggies to a 91-55 romp, a game that featured a ridiculous rebounding margin (47-23) and a lot of three-point attempts (38 combined between the two teams). A&M led by 26 at halftime and coasted from there. Kourtney Roberson also finished with a double-double: 14 points and 12 rebounds.
  3. The NBA Development League held its 2011 draft Thursday night. It’s not exactly a hit with the Nielsen ratings, but a few notable Big 12 players were selected. Former Iowa State Cyclone Jamaal Tinsley, a former Big 12 Player of the Year, went first overall. He’s already played eight years in the NBA so the moment for him probably wasn’t a tearjerker. Gary Johnson (Texas) went in the late first round, Brady Morningstar (Kansas) went in the third, and Darion Anderson (Iowa State) was drafted in the fourth. Here’s to an extended career to those four players.
  4. For you TV announcer junkies, here’s a look at the commentators for the upcoming Big 12 season, as well as the rest of college basketball. Looks like more of the same, especially on Big Monday: Bob Knight and Brent Musburger are back. Depending on how you feel about The General, that’s either a brilliant or disastrous move. Also, both Jon Sciambi and Mitch Holthus will call weekly Big 12 games.
  5. And in your sad news of the morning: Oklahoma held a memorial service for radio announcer Bob Barry, Sr., who died last weekend at the age of 80. Barry spent 50 years in the business and every player, reporter, and coach he’s ever worked alongside had nothing but the best to say about him. Barry was an Oklahoma icon, and he will be missed–even by people who never met him.
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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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