Pop quiz: Which is the only Big 12 team to win at least one NCAA Tournament game in each of the last five years?
If you guessed the Texas A&M Aggies, you'd be correct.
In fact, the only other team in the country to match that feat is Pittsburgh.
And the Aggies have finished in at least a tie for fourth place in the Big 12 each year since Mark Turgeon took over.
Clearly, the program that Billy Gillispie built is well established, yet some continue to underestimate it: Witness the preseason sixth-place selection Texas A&M received.
Already, that prediction is looking a little questionable. Until proven otherwise, I say, always pencil the Aggies in for a Big 12 Tournament bye.
A full preview follows after the jump. Also, feel free to bop over to I Am The 12th Man for some discussion with the natives.
The Story So Far
Texas A&M did some good work in the Old Spice Classic. The 12-1 Aggies are the first team I've previewed thus far with a "signature" win, which was over RPI No. 14 Temple, a team that beat Georgetown and nearly upset Villanova the other night. They collected that on the third day of the tournament.
Things didn't start well in Lake Buena Vista, however, when the Aggies lost their opener to Boston College by a mere two points. BC is a decent ACC team, not a great one, but the Eagles currently are ranked No. 26 in RPI.
The middle game against Manhattan didn't do anything for the Texas A&M profile, but it was a must-win game and they won it.
Of course, the other major win came over Washington and propelled the Aggies into the Top 25 polls. While Washington started the season ranked, the luster has come off a little. But the Huskies still are ranked 40 in the RPI.
The remainder of the wins are against nine teams with triple-digit RPIs, including the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Current Texas A&M RPI: 35
Current Texas A&M SOS: 133
Note: All stats for current players are updated through the most recent game this season, unless otherwise noted.
85-32 (28-20) at Texas A&M
Bryan Davis (25.5 minutes per game | 9.6 points per game | 8.1 rebounds per game)
Derrick Roland (25.1 minutes per game | 10.5 points per game | 3.0 rebounds per game)
Donald Sloan (33.2 minutes per game | 17.8 points per game | 3.6 rebounds per game)
- Jeremy Adams (0.0 minutes per game | 0.0 points per game | 0.0 rebounds per game)
- James Blasczyk (1.5 minutes per game | 0.4 point per game | 0.3 rebound per game)
- Chris Chapman (1.3 minutes per game | 0.5 point per game | 0.3 rebound per game)
- Shawn Schepel (1.7 minutes per game | 0.3 point per game | 0.9 rebound per game)
#33 Marshall Carrell
2.3 minutes per game | 1.0 point per game | 0.1 rebound per game
#12 Andrew Darko
11.1 minutes per game | 2.0 points per game | 1.5 rebounds per game
#5 Dash Harris
26.4 minutes per game | 3.7 points per game | 2.7 rebounds per game
#23 Naji Hibbert
19.5 minutes per game | 7.4 points per game | 2.8 rebounds per game
#11 B.J. Holmes
27.7 minutes per game | 9.0 points per game | 2.9 rebounds per game
#2 Derrek Lewis
8.0 minutes per game | 2.3 points per game | 1.4 rebounds per game
#10 David Loubeau
24.2 minutes per game | 11.0 points per game | 5.2 rebounds per game
#22 Khris Middleton
27.2 minutes per game | 15.2 points per game | 4.7 rebounds per game
FANTASY OWNER: BracketCat
#35 Ray Turner
14.7 minutes per game | 4.5 points per game | 3.9 rebounds per game
#45 Nathan Walkup
22.9 minutes per game | 10.3 points per game | 6.4 rebounds per game
#15 Daniel Alexander
0.0 minutes per game | 0.0 points per game | 0.0 rebounds per game
#24 Alex Baird
0.8 minute per game | 0.4 point per game | 0.4 rebound per game
#4 Keith Davis
8.7 minutes per game | 2.0 points per game | 2.4 rebounds per game
#42 Jarod Jahns
1.4 minutes per game | 0.0 points per game | 0.0 rebounds per game
#00 Blake McDonald
2.3 minutes per game | 0.4 point per game | 0.3 rebound per game
#32 Kourtney Roberson
12.7 minutes per game | 6.5 points per game | 4.5 rebounds per game
#31 Elston Turner
15.3* minutes per game | 5.5* points per game | 1.9* rebounds per game
*at Washington in 2009-10
My thanks to the Texas A&M sports information department for the photos.
In reality, Texas A&M entered this season only having to replace two starters, since Derrick Roland was lost for the season in December 2009 against Washington with a gruesomely broken leg.
That means the only significant losses from the team that came within an eyelash of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen were seniors Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan.
Davis, who seemingly was in college for eight years, was the team's leading rebounder and third-leading scorer.
Sloan was the primary point guard and the team's leading scorer, averaging eight points per game more than Davis.
Those are no small losses, but Texas A&M did return many other valuable veterans looking to expand their roles and a strong freshman (now sophomore) class with some highly rated talent.
Leading the way this year is the frontcourt — Khris Middleton, David Loubeau and Nathan Walkup. Those three players lead the team in scoring (each averages more than 10 points per game) and rebounding.
To torture an analogy, Middleton is the Aggies' version of Rodney McGruder — a smooth shooter who can score from anywhere on the court. And Loubeau is like Wally Judge, only a year further along in his development. He's one of the most improved players in the Big 12, but could stand to develop a little more consistency.
Walkup is a solid player who leads the team in rebounding and does a lot of little things to help it succeed, but he can score, too. He's also a solid free-throw shooter and an effective defender.
Completing the starting lineup are guards B.J. Holmes and Dash Harris.
Both served as understudies to Sloan last year and found their roles suddenly upgraded after Roland's injury. They are relied upon less to score than he was, thanks to the effectiveness of the Aggie frontcourt, but each is capable of knocking down shots and driving the lane.
They have identical assist numbers, but Holmes has fewer turnovers. He's also a more prolific scorer than Harris, checking in at fourth on the team scoring charts. Harris probably is the better defender, though.
Three reserves are scoring more than Harris, in fact, and all are doing it in less than 20 minutes per game off the bench.
Guard Naji Hibbert is a contender for Sixth Man of the Year honors, while freshman big man Kourtney Roberson shows a lot of promise, as long as he can stay out of foul trouble and not get ejected like he was against Arkansas.
Roberson will provide Loubeau with some needed relief down low, as will sophomore power forward Ray Turner.
Somewhat less important, but still seeing significant minutes, are senior guards Andrew Darko and Derrek Lewis, who can spell the two starters from time to time. JUCO transfer Alex Baird has seen time in five games.
Marshall Carrell, Jarod Jahns and Blake McDonald are walk-ons who play sparingly, as does scholarship center Keith Davis, a freshman. Junior guard Elston Turner is redshirting this season after transferring from, ironically enough, Washington. Highly touted freshman Daniel Alexander also is redshirting.
The star recruit of Texas A&M's freshman class, Tobi Oyedeji, died tragically in a car accident last spring. The players wear a patch on their jerseys in his honor.
Projected Big 12 Starting Lineup
|B.J. Holmes||Dash Harris||Nathan Walkup||Khris Middleton||David Loubeau|
Projected Top Big 12 Reserves
|Andrew Darko||Derrek Lewis||Naji Hibbert||Ray Turner||Kourtney Roberson|
The Final Verdict
Texas A&M is a balanced, tough-nosed, athletic team with veteran guards and very talented bigs. They play with an emphasis on defense, rebounding, scoring in transition and making you pay for your mistakes. Sound familiar?
There's a reason both Kansas State and Texas A&M have joined Kansas as the most consistently excellent programs in the conference for the past four years and counting. They can beat you in a variety of ways and playing them is a game of "pick your poison."
Middleton is scoring at a high level, and if Loubeau can become just a little more consistent, the Aggies will have one of the three best frontcourts in the league.
If they have a weakness, it's probably that they don't have the kind of guards who can take a game over and win it for you. Harris is a not a gifted scorer, while Holmes is fairly small and not the most consistent shooter at times. They will have to play within themselves, protect the basketball and find ways to get the ball to the scorers inside.
Sixth place was way too low for this team, this coach and this program. They'll claim a bye in Kansas City this March. I'm not particularly looking forward to the game at Reed Arena because we're going to have to be firing on all cylinders (on the heels of a game at Missouri, no less) in a midweek game to win.
Big 12 preseason prediction: 6th
My predicted finish: 4th
Best-case scenario: 2nd
Against K-State?: Win in College Station