KNOW THY ENEMY: Texas A&M Aggies (revisited)

TexasAM

This entry isn't late — it's just making a fashionable entrance.

Here's what I wrote about the Aggies back in October.

Keep in mind this was right after we put 60-plus on their football team:

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 Story So Far

Texas A&M's best wins came in the 76 Classic against then-ranked Clemson and Minnesota. Clemson eventually returned to the rankings this week, but Minnesota has yet to do so, so those wins have lost a little luster. The Aggies probably earned more respect by playing West Virginia close in a loss in that tournament.

The recent loss to New Mexico in Houston was a setback, but the Lobos are a really good team.

Otherwise, the resume consists of unremarkable wins against Angelo State, at SMU, Samford, Prairie View A&M, Akron, North Texas and The Citadel. The Aggies would be well served to net a win in Seattle tonight against Washington.

Current Texas A&M RPI: 19

 

The Coach

MarkTurgeon

Mark Turgeon
Third Season

58-23 (17-15) at Texas A&M
211-142 (103-89) overall

Bio

 

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

Bio

23.2 minutes per game | 9.1 points per game | 6.9 rebounds per game

DerrekLewis

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

Bio

3.2 minutes per game | 0.8 point per game | 0 rebounds per game

DerrickRoland

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

Bio

25.9 minutes per game | 11.1 points per game | 3.2 rebounds per game

DashHarris

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

Bio

24.5 minutes per game | 5.3 points per game | 3.3 rebounds per game

DavidLoubeau

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

Bio

21.5 minutes per game | 5.9 points per game | 5.9 rebounds per game

BJHolmes

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

Bio

21.4 minutes per game | 9.7 points per game | 2.3 rebounds per game

AndrewDarko

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

Bio

2 minutes per game | 0.3 point per game | 0 rebounds per game

DonaldSloan

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

Bio

30.7 minutes per game | 17.4 points per game | 4 rebounds per game

ShawnSchepel

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

Bio

2 minutes per game | 0 points per game | 1 rebound per game

ChrisChapman

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

Bio

2 minutes per game | 2 points per game | 0 rebounds per game

MarshallCarrell

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

Bio

2 minutes per game | 0 points per game | 0 rebounds per game

NathanWalkup

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

Bio

19.3 minutes per game | 6.3 points per game | 3.5 rebounds per game

 

The Redshirt

JamesBlasczyk

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

1.8 minutes per game | 0.5 point per game | 0 rebounds per game

 

The Newcomers

RayTurner

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

Bio

0 minutes per game | 0 points per game | 0 rebounds per game

KhrisMiddleton

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

Bio

14.1 minutes per game | 4.3 points per game | 3 rebounds per game

NajiHibbert

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

Bio

15.5 minutes per game | 2.5 points per game | 2.3 rebounds per game

JeremyAdams

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

Bio

0 minutes per game | 0 points per game | 0 rebounds per game

My thanks to the Texas A&M sports information department for the photos.

 

The Analysis

My October analysis, which might have been prematurely glum:

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 Big 12 Starting Lineup

DonaldSloan DerrickRoland DashHarris NathanWalkup BryanDavis
Donald Sloan Derrick Roland Dash Harris Nathan Walkup Bryan Davis
1 2 3 4 5

 

Projected Top Big 12 Reserves

BJHolmes DerrekLewis NajiHibbert KhrisMiddleton DavidLoubeau
B.J. Holmes Derrek Lewis Naji Hibbert Khris Middleton David Loubeau
1 2 3 4 5

 

The Final Verdict

OK, I was wrong about the Aggies on a few fronts.

My projections of Turgeon's 10-man rotation were off because he's not using any of his traditional centers, choosing instead to go small with a three-guard lineup. So, scrap Blascyzk and Carrell, substitute Harris into the starting lineup (he's started all 11 games so far), and move Lewis (who has played sparingly) and Hibbert into the second row.

I did call Walkup as a starter when most media outlets were projecting Loubeau, though, if I might toot my own horn for a moment.

The other thing I was wrong about was the Aggies' finish. I had them in 6th place, but that assumed Oklahoma would not suck as much as they have. It's pretty clear now that Texas A&M probably is about the fourth-best team in the conference, and most likely will collect a first-round bye in Kansas City, despite my earlier pessimism.

That said, I think the Cats are a notch better against a tougher schedule and should be able to hold them off in Bramlage, and for third place in the Big 12.

Update: Less than two hours after I posted this, the Aggies lost Derrick Roland to a gruesome leg injury, likely for the season. While this is a blow for them, I will stand by my prediction because they are deep at guard, and I think Davis will be the big difference between them and a lot of other teams. Look for B.J. Holmes to step into the starting role, as he did last year when Roland was plagued by nagging injuries in the middle of the season.

Big 12 preseason prediction: 5th

My predicted finish: 4th (was 6th)

Best-case scenario: 2nd (was 4th)

Against K-State?: Loss in Manhattan

 

Previously on KNOW THY ENEMY...

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  10. Missouri (T-9th with Iowa State)
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  12. ???
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