KNOW THY ENEMY: Texas A&M Aggies

TexasAM

This week's preview probably is one of the more distasteful I will compose, perhaps only to be topped by the one for the Flaw on the Kaw. When it comes to Aggie basketball, the word "enemy" well and truly applies.

I don't know if it's because of Mark Turgeon, the Kellis Robinett of basketball coaches, or Billy Clyde Gillispie, angry drunk that he is, but something about Texas A&M actually being halfway decent in basketball just pisses me off. I don't know — maybe it's just the grudge I've been holding against the 12th Man since December 1998.

At any rate, I'm still basking in the afterglow of the absolute pwning administered to the Aggies on Saturday, so I'll strive to be as magnanimous as possible in this preview. If you're looking for more information, feel free to hop over to I Am The 12th Man, where basketball season almost certainly is under way. Anything to distract from a likely 0-3 start, right?

Otherwise, click the jump for all you need to know about Ags-ketball.

The Coach

MarkTurgeon

Mark Turgeon
Third Season

49-21 (17-15) at Texas A&M
202-140 (103-89) overall

Turgeon has a 49-21 record at A&M, the most wins by a Big 12 coach in his first two seasons at a league school. He is only the second coach ever to lead the Aggies to consecutive NCAA Tournaments and has led his teams to five 20-win seasons in the last six years.

Last season, the Aggies went 24-10 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year.

Turgeon led the Aggies to a 25-11 record in his first season, the third-most wins in school history. The Aggies lost in the final seconds to top-seeded UCLA in the second round of the NCAAs.

 

The Departures

 

Starters

  • Josh Carter (30.6 minutes per game, 13.8 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game)
  • Chinemelu Elonu (23.8 minutes per game, 9.8 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game)

Reserves

  • Denzel Bowles (5.4 minutes per game, 2.4 points per game, 1.2 rebounds per game)
  • Bryson Graham (2 minutes per game, 0.8 point per game, 0.3 rebound per game)

 

The Veterans

BryanDavis

#0 Bryan Davis
Senior Forward
6-9 | 250
Dallas, Texas

Big 12 All-Reserve Team (2009)

The Aggies are 27-7 when Davis scores in double figures in his career. He averaged 16.5 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in two NCAA Tournament games, earning CBS Sports player of the game honors in both contests.

Davis scored a season-high 21 points with nine rebounds and three blocks in a first-round win against BYU. He scored 12 points with a game-high 10 rebounds in a win against Missouri.

Davis scored 15 points with eight rebounds in a win against Texas, and just missed double-doubles at No. 2 Oklahoma (13 points, nine rebounds), at Baylor (13 points, nine rebounds) and at Colorado (nine points and nine rebounds). He matched his season high with 18 points in a win against Oklahoma State, making 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.

Davis had 13 points and eight rebounds in a win against Texas Tech; scored a season-high 18 points with 10 rebounds in a win at Rice; had 17 points against Baylor and 16 points against LSU; came off the bench to score 15 points with a season-high 13 rebounds against Kent State, earning SPI Invitational all-tournament honors; returned to the starting lineup against Arizona and had 10 points, making 5 of 6 from the field; scored 15 points with nine rebounds in a win at Alabama; had 11 rebounds vs. SMU; had at least five rebounds in all but four games; ranked third on the team in scoring (10.8), and second in rebounding (6.5) and blocks (46); ranked fifth in the Big 12 in blocks and ninth in rebounding; ranked fourth in the Big 12 in offensive rebounding (2.9) in league play; scored 14 points with seven rebounds against Jackson State and tied his career best with four blocks; and ranks seventh in school history with 96 career blocks.

DerrekLewis

#2 Derrek Lewis
Junior Guard
6-5 | 195
Tulsa, Okla.

Lewis appeared in five games, averaging 0.6 point per game. He scored a season-high two points against UNC Wilmington, played a season-best five minutes against Jackson State, and also saw action against BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

DerrickRoland

#3 Derrick Roland
Senior Guard
6-4 | 190
Dallas, Texas

Big 12 All-Defense Team (2009)

Roland scored 10 points in a first-round NCAA Tournament win against BYU, making a pair of three-pointers. He was named to Big 12 All-Defense Team by league coaches and media panel, and usually guarded the opponent's top scoring guard and in Big 12 play held all but two under his scoring average. League players he guarded made just 38 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range.

Roland helped limit Arizona All-American Chase Budinger to just three points on 1 of 6 shooting in the second half of A&M's come-from-behind win. Texas' A.J. Abrams averaged just eight points (6 of 22 shooting, 1 of 9 3-pointers) in two games against Roland.

Roland scored 11 points in the first win against Texas Tech and held John Roberson to four second-half points (2 of 10 from field, 0 of 5 3-pointers). Oklahoma State's James Anderson averaged just 9.5 points in two games against Roland.

Roland matched his season best with 13 points in a loss at Baylor, scoring 11 in the second half to rally the Aggies from a 14-point deficit. He scored 12 points with four assists in a win at Colorado (8-8 FT); made 25 of his last 29 free throw attempts; played just 10 minutes against McNeese State, after leaving the game early with a bruised elbow, and did not play against North Dakota; scored six points with a season-high six rebounds against Arizona; missed the Kent State game after suffering a sprained foot against Tulsa; and averaged 8.5 points in the last six games. The Aggies are 11-2 in his career when he scores in double figures, and 8-1 on the season.

DashHarris

#5 Dash Harris
Sophomore Guard
6-1 | 175
Los Angeles, Calif.

Harris played in all 34 games and earned a start against Kent State. He ranked second on the team in assists (2.0) and was third in steals (0.7); scored a career-high seven points with three assists against Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament; had six points and made 2 of 2 from 3-point range against Iowa State, his first career 3-pointers; had a monster dunk and made a free throw to complete a key 3-point play and spark a comeback win at Nebraska; scored six points with three assists and two steals in a big win against Missouri; dished out a career-high five assists in consecutive games against Rice and McNeese State; matched his career best with five assists in wins against Texas (zero turnovers) and Texas Tech; scored a career-high six points with four assists and a career-best three steals against North Dakota; handed out at least four assists in seven games; and scored four points against Tulsa. The Aggies were 9-1 when he had at least three assists, with the only loss being to UConn.

DavidLoubeau

#10 David Loubeau
Sophomore Forward
6-8 | 230
Miami, Fla.

Loubeau scored 11 points, making 5 of 5 from the field, against Connecticut in the second round of NCAA Tournament; ranked third on the team in offensive rebounds (58); ranked second among Big 12 freshmen in offensive rebounds in league play (1.9); scored eight points in a win against Missouri; had nine points, all in the second half, with six rebounds in a narrow loss at No. 2 Oklahoma; scored 11 points with eight rebounds in a win against Texas Tech; had 10 points, all in the first half, in a win against Oklahoma State; scored a career-high 12 points with eight rebounds against Kent State in his first career start; also started against Iowa State; had seven points with five rebounds at Kansas, including a game-high four offensive boards; scored six points with a career-best nine rebounds against Tulsa; had eight points at Alabama, helping the Aggies rally from 14-point deficit; scored eight points with eight rebounds against SMU; had eight points and six rebounds against Jackson State, making 6 of 8 from the free-throw line; and tallied six points with six boards against UNC Wilmington. The Aggies were 7-2 when he scored at least eight points, losing only at Oklahoma and to UConn.

BJHolmes

#11 B.J. Holmes
Junior Guard
5-11 | 175
Houston, Texas

Big 12 All-Reserve Team (2009)

In Big 12 play, Holmes led the league in 3-point percentage (.470) and ranked second in free-throw percentage (.860). He ranked among the top bench players in the Big 12 with an 9.1 scoring average in conference play; had 10 points in a first-round NCAA Tournament win against BYU; scored 11 points (3 of 3 treys) in a win against Texas; scored 10 of his 16 points in the last six minutes in a comeback win at Colorado; had 13 points in a win vs. Missouri; had a career-high 24 points in the first win against Texas Tech, making 6 of 7 (.857) from 3-point range, the fourth-best percentage in school history; made six straight 3s against Tech, tying a Big 12 record; scored 19 points at Oklahoma State, making 4 of 9 3-pointers and 7 of 7 free throws; earned his first career start against Arizona and had a team-high 14 points (3 of 6 3-pointers); made a pair of key free throws in the final minute of the Arizona game and also drew a charge that fouled out Wildcat point guard Nic Wise late in game; scored 16 points with a career-best seven rebounds in a win at Alabama and made a rainbow 3-pointer with two seconds left to send the game to overtime; scored 15 points against Kent State, making 3 of 6 3-pointers and dropping a pair of free throws in the final seconds that helped ice the game; started in place of the injured Derrick Roland against North Dakota and scored 14 points (4-8 3-pointers); missed his first 12 shots of the season; led the team in steals (30); and had only 18 turnovers in 757 minutes (one every 42.1 minutes).

AndrewDarko

#14 Andrew Darko
Junior Guard
6-1 | 175
Conroe, Texas

Darko appeared in nine games, including three Big 12 games and an NCAA Tournament game against BYU. He scored two points against Jackson State and at Kansas.

DonaldSloan

#15 Donald Sloan
Senior Guard
6-3 | 205
Dallas, Texas

The Aggies are 39-8 in Sloan's career when he hands out at least three assists, including a 16-3 mark as a junior, and the team is 33-13 when he scores in double figures. He averaged 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists in two NCAA Tournament games; scored 14 points with six rebounds and a season-high seven assists in a first-round win vs. BYU; added 12 points in the second round against Connecticut; had a career-high 22 points against Texas Tech in Big 12 Tournament; scored a team-high 16 points in a win against Missouri; averaged 15.6 points in the last five games; had 14 points and five assists with only one turnover, scoring seven points in the final four minutes of a comeback win at Colorado; had 14 points in a win against Texas; scored 17 points (3 of 4 3-pointers) in a loss at Texas; had 15 points in a win against Oklahoma State; tied his career high with 21 points against Florida A&M, making 10 of 10 free throws; ranked second on the team in scoring (11.8) and led in assists (3.2); scored at least eight points in all but three games; had 13 points and five assists with only one turnover in 35 minutes against Arizona; handed out a season-high seven assists against Kent State with only one turnover; had 16 points with three assists and six rebounds against Stephen F. Austin; made .743 (107-144) from the free-throw line; and had only 56 turnovers in 1,030 minutes this season (one every 18.4 minutes), a marked improvement over his sophomore season, when he averaged one turnover every 13.3 minutes.

ShawnSchepel

#24 Shawn Schepel
Junior Guard
6-3 | 205
Dallas, Texas

Schepel played in six games, including two Big 12 games and an NCAA Tournament game against BYU. He scored one point against Jackson State.

ChrisChapman

#31 Chris Chapman
Senior Guard
5-11 | 175
Houston, Texas

Chapman appeared in three games, including the Iowa State game in Big 12 play. He scored two points with one rebound against Jackson State.

MarshallCarrell

#33 Marshall Carrell
Junior Forward
6-9 | 230
Paris, Texas

Carrell appeared in four games, including an NCAA Tournament game against BYU. He pulled down two rebounds against Jackson State.

NathanWalkup

#45 Nathan Walkup
Junior Forward
6-7 | 210
Houston, Texas

Walkup played in all 34 games, starting against UNC Wilmington and Iowa State. He averaged 14 minutes in two NCAA Tournament games; scored a career-high 12 points (3 of 4 3-pointers) in a win against Missouri; had eight points (2 of 2 3-pointers) against Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament; had seven points, making 3 of 3 from the field (including a key second-half 3-pointer) in a win against Texas; also added seven points in a win at Nebraska and had a breakaway dunk that helped spark a comeback; scored six points with three rebounds in just 11 minutes in a narrow loss at No. 2 Oklahoma, including a breakaway dunk; made a game-winning 3-pointer with 20 seconds left against Arizona, his only points of the game; scored seven points in a win at Alabama and made a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to pull the Aggies within two points, before teammate B.J. Holmes sent the game into overtime with two seconds left; scored a season-high nine points with a career-best 12 rebounds against UNC Wilmington; averaged 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds; scored seven points with 11 rebounds against Stephen F. Austin and made a key long-range 3-pointer as the shot clock expired in the final minute; scored eight points against Jackson State; and made a 3-pointer with 7:32 left to give A&M a six-point lead at Rice, and it never was a one-possession game again. The Aggies are 14-2 in his career when he scores at least five points.

 

The Redshirt

JamesBlasczyk

#12 James Blasczyk
Freshman Center
7-0 | 230
Houston, Texas

Blasczyk was named his high school district's defensive player of the year in 2008. He averaged 14.6 points and 9.7 rebounds as a senior; was rated among the top 50 prospects in the state by TexasHoops.com; averaged 8.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 blocks as a junior; earned three varsity letters; scored a career-best 27 points with a career-high 17 rebounds against the Dallas Mustangs in 2007 as a member of Houston Select, one the top AAU programs in the nation; and played for Houston Swoosh in 2008.

 

The Newcomers

RayTurner

#21 Ray Turner
Freshman Forward
6-8 | 220
Houston, Texas

Turner was ranked No. 144 nationally and No. 6 in Texas by Rivals.com; averaged 16.5 points and earned district MVP honors as a senior; was named to all-state and all-region teams; played in the THSCA All-Star Game; led his team to a 29-7 record and a district title; posted career game-highs of 35 points, 25 rebounds and 12 blocks; averaged 16 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks as a junior; and also was recruited by Baylor, Marquette, Memphis, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma State.

KhrisMiddleton

#22 Khris Middleton
Freshman Forward
6-7 | 215
North Charleston, S.C.

Middleton was rated No. 64 by ESPN.com, which also ranked him as the best shooter among the nation's small forward prospects; averaged 22.4 points and 8.6 rebounds as a prep senior, earning all-state honors and leading his team to the state title game; averaged 21.0 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior; twice earned state player-of-the-year honors; posted a career-high scoring game of 39 points; and also was recruited by Michigan, South Carolina, St. Joseph's and Virginia Tech.

NajiHibbert

#23 Naji Hibbert
Freshman Guard
6-5 | 200
Baltimore, Md.

Hibbert was ranked No. 59 nationally by ESPN.com and was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com; named to all-league and all-metro teams for the second straight year after averaging 15.7 points at storied DeMatha Catholic High School; and scored with 1.8 seconds left to lift DeMatha to the state championship. The team finished 31-4 and was ranked No. 4 nationally by ESPN.

Hibbert averaged 15.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game as a junior; scored 44 points in an AAU game; and also was recruited by Clemson, Marquette, Maryland, Miami, Syracuse and Xavier.

JeremyAdams

#25 Jeremy Adams
Freshman Guard
6-5 | 195
Madison, Miss.

Adams was rated as the No. 2 player in Mississippi by ESPN after averaging 27.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 4.2 steals as a senior at Madison Central; earned all-state honors; had three 40-point scoring games and earned all-division, all-metro and all-state honors; twice scored 43 points in a game; led his team to three straight district titles; and also was recruited by Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgetown, Georgia, Kentucky, Miami, Notre Dame and Wake Forest.

My thanks to the Texas A&M sports information department for the photos and most of the information for the bios.

 

The Analysis

As much as I dislike the Aggies, it's hard to discount them as a force in Big 12 basketball. Over the past five years, they have been to four consecutive NCAA tournaments, made five consecutive postseason appearances and finished in the top half of the conference every year. Other than Kansas and Texas, Texas A&M is the only Big 12 team to win 20+ games during that stretch.

But while Texas A&M has been a consistent winner, it hasn't yet been a serious challenger for a Big 12 championship. The Aggies regularly have lost to powers such as Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas; own a two-game, regular-season losing streak to Kansas State, despite being favored in both games; and occasionally are upset by less-talented programs such as Baylor and Texas Tech. They even struggled with Colorado last year, before pulling away late.

I don't think anything will change in 2009-2010, either. In fact, I think it is more likely that Texas A&M will decline, rather than rise up, despite adding a recruiting class that hovered in and out of Rivals' Class of 2009 rankings, before finishing just outside the Top 25.

Although the Aggies lost only two significant players off last year's team, only Oklahoma lost two more significant starters. Josh Carter and Chinemelu Elonu by far were A&M's two best players in 2008-2009. Carter, a four-year starter and the Aggies' leading scorer last year, graduated, while Elonu, the team's leading rebounder who already had earned his bachelor's degree, tested the NBA draft waters and was selected in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Luckily for A&M, Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis did not follow Elonu's lead, and instead pulled out of the draft to return for their senior seasons. Good thing, too, or the Aggies would have lost four starters and been totally decimated. Sloan is one of the league's better point guards and Davis should step up to fill Elonu's void as the team's leader in rebounding.

The other returning starter is Derrick Roland, who rivals Dominique Sutton and J.T. Tiller in terms of defensive intensity. He has been bothered by injuries the past few seasons, but assuming he stays healthy, he should lock up the off-guard position all year.

Projecting the other two starters is trickier. I'm pretty sure that Nathan Walkup, who played in all 32 games last season, will figure into the equation, though. At 6-7, Walkup offers nice size at the wing position, and he probably can also hold his own in the post, in a smaller lineup.

The fifth starter probably will be situational. My projections use a traditional PG-SG-SF-PF-C lineup, so I went with James Blasczyk, a 7-footer who is the tallest player left on the roster. But Blasczyk is coming off a redshirt season and hasn't yet played a game in Division I, so it's a stretch to say he will be a consistent starter.

It's more likely that the Aggies will go with a smaller lineup when the opponent's makeup presents the opportunity. In that case, Davis would shift to the 5 and Walkup to the 4, and B.J. Holmes probably would come in as a third guard. Holmes was the Aggies' "sixth man" last season and replaced Roland as a starter whenever the latter was out with an injury.

Dash Harris (what a great name for a point guard!) was one of the conference's most impressive freshmen last year. He is a solid backup for Sloan and will continue to play understudy to the senior, in preparation for next year when he will be counted upon to fill Sloan's considerable shoes. David Loubeau rounds out the 7-8 players I see making up the Aggies' primary player rotation. He's a solid reliever in the frontcourt with some size (6-8, 230).

Marshall Carrell as primary backup at center is a stretch. I mainly picked him there because at 6-9, he's the tallest player (other than Blasczyk and Davis) on the roster. But he is a role player who has played sparingly in years past, and that highlights one of the primary problems the Aggies face this season. Other than Davis and maybe Loubeau, there are no experienced centers on the roster. When A&M faces frontcourts such as those of Kansas, Kansas State or Texas, they are going to be challenged and they probably won't be able to measure up, due to a lack of depth. When Davis gets into foul trouble (and he does that a lot), the Aggies will lose games.

Other than Mark Turgeon, nobody knows much about Chris Chapman, Andrew Darko, Derrek Lewis or Shawn Schepel, because they have played next to no minutes. One or more could surprise, I suppose, but there's nothing there in the track record to make you think it's imminent.

Khris Middleton doesn't really stand above the other incoming freshmen, but I liked the unconventional spelling of his name, so he rounds out the projected two-deep. Jeremy Adams, Naji Hibbert and Ray Turner complete a solid, but not heralded, recruiting class. How they develop in the years to come could indicate whether Turgeon really is a great coach, or merely is coasting with players inherited from Billy Gillispie.

 

Projected Starting Lineup

DonaldSloan DerrickRoland NathanWalkup BryanDavis JamesBlasczyk
Donald Sloan Derrick Roland Nathan Walkup Bryan Davis James Blasczyk
1 2 3 4 5

 

Projected Top Reserves

DashHarris BJHolmes KhrisMiddleton DavidLoubeau MarshallCarrell
Dash Harris B.J. Holmes Khris Middleton David Loubeau Marshall Carrell
1 2 3 4 5

 

The Final Verdict

Texas A&M's track record demands that I pick them in the upper half of the Big 12. That much, at least, the Aggies have earned.

But losing Elonu was a huge blow that basically halved the frontcourt, in terms of high-level, star talent. When Bryan Davis squares off with Cole Aldrich, Craig Brackins, Andrew Fitzgerald, Keith Gallon, Damion James, Wally Judge, Curtis Kelly, Marcus Morris, Dexter Pittman and so forth, he's going to wish Elonu still was there to back him up.

Upper division? Yes. NCAA Tournament? Most likely. First-day bye in the Big 12 Tournament? I highly doubt it.

Predicted finish: 6th

Best-case scenario: 4th

 

Previously on KNOW THY ENEMY...

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  9. Iowa State
  10. Texas Tech
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