Friday, January 16, 2009

Mini-Preview: Texas A&M

Quickly, I'm don't necessarily agree with all fifteen selections, but every time Jay Bilas speaks/writes it becomes painfully obvious how much more intelligent he is than everyone else at ESPN. Ombudsman not included.

The Turgeon General has quietly pieced together another decent squad of Aggies. Are they officially a basketball school now? I vote yes and really I don't see an argument against such a vote. On the one hand, there is a very probable chance that this will be their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament team. And to this day, they are still the only Big XII South team to win a single game in AllenFieldhouse since the formation of the league. Meanwhile, aside from a few Tier 2 bowl game losses, the football team has done almost nothing and continues to sink further into irrelevancy. Where's the debate?

Back to this team, I've been surprisingly impressed. They don't do any one thing very well, but they've got a few really good college players and some complimentary parts around them to fill in the gaps. Their NBA radar starts and stops with Josh Carter, unquestionably their best all around player. Carter came in as a three point shooter (and still carries that reputation), but has slowly become much more dangerous as a slasher – except no one has told him yet. Listed at 6'7" (more like 6'5"), there is no reason that nearly 60% of his shots should be coming from more than 20 feet – especially when he's only making them 37% of the time. That's a solid number sure, but he's almost always going to be a match-up problem with his size and speed, yet he rarely utilizes either. It sounds like I'm down on him (and I am), but really I'd take him on my team in a second – if for no other reason than his great defense, which I failed to mention up until this point.

Their other two primary known weapons are Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis. Sloan is extremely quick and good with the ball (2.3/1 A/TO ratio) and has actually become somewhat of an outside threat (38%) though he doesn't shoot them often. And like any Aggie that plays, his worth is really proven defensively. Bryan Davis is somewhat of a wildebeest with a surprisingly good touch. At 6'9" 240, I'd like to see him grab more than 6 boards a game, but it's tough to do when he limits himself to 26 minutes by way of either fouls or exhaustion. It's hit or miss with him – he's either dominant or invisible, rarely putting together an average game.

The surprise of the season has to be Chinemelu Elonu. For the year, his numbers aren't gaudy (11 & 8), but as a guy that gave them 3 & 3 a year ago, I didn't see this one coming. And what's more, he seems to be getting better as the year goes along (novel concept), really turning it on since the start of conference play – 20 & 12 @ OSU, 17 & 16 v. Baylor. He's unquestionably their best rebounder (6 double digit performances) and if he can continue to give them 30 minutes and anything near his recent production, they take a giant step up. If this is just a quick fluke, then they need to be re-evaluated (see: his 4 points, 0 boards and 5 fouls in their inexcusable loss to Tulsa - to be fair he was going against Jerome Jordan, a vastly underrated player). Aside from those mentioned, Holmes, Roland and even Dash Harris contribute nightly with varying degrees of success. As role players on marginal teams are wont to do, they've only been consistent at being inconsistent. Holmes is clearly the best of the three, but he doesn't always show up so it really varies from game to game.

As mentioned, this Aggie team is a surprise. I didn't think they'd be awful by any means, but I also didn't think of them as a tournament team with a chance to get a bye in Oklahoma City. Now, I'm not so sure. They've got four wins that should hold up ('Zona, LSU, @ 'Bama, and Baylor) and only one bad loss (Tulsa) as there's no shame in losing in Stillwater. They've got a good chance to add another Saturday when the Sooners visit and we'll get our first up-close look on Monday when they travel to Allen Fieldhouse. This is a team to keep an eye on though.

Up next: Missouri

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