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Fall Hoops Check In: Texas A&M

Basketball season’s not too far away. To get ready for the season, we’re checking in with every SEC school. Next up, the Texas A&M Aggies

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018-19 Texas A&M basketball team was the worst of the Billy Kennedy era and the 14-18 record cost Kennedy his job.

After making it to the Sweet 16 in 2018, knocking out the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels in the process, NBA draft departures and injuries derailed the Aggie season and A&M tumbled down to the bottom of the SEC standings.

A key reason why the league has improved as a basketball conference is schools investing in quality coaches to take over their programs and Texas A&M would follow suit. Out goes Billy Kennedy, in comes former Virginia Tech headman Buzz Williams. Williams took the job mere days after his Hokies nearly upset Duke in the Sweet 16.

But how good can we expect the Williams-led Aggies to be in year one? To better answer that question, we reached out David Dold one of our pals from Good Bull Hunting. You can find David on Twitter @gigthem08.

1. Last season was an unusually down year for Aggie basketball: 14-18 and 6-12 in SEC play. How does Texas A&M rebound?

Our hope this season is based entirely on the Buzz Williams hire. For the first time in program history, we grabbed a proven power five coach in lieu of raiding a one-bid conference. Buzz doesn’t exactly have a history of instant turnarounds, but we feel he has enough returning strength to surprise some people in year one. In particular, he has a fascinating reclamation project on his hands in Junior TJ Starks. Starks was legitimately impressive in his SEC All-Freshman campaign, but the wheels fell off last year. A multitude of factors led to that decline, but the (not so secret) frosty relationship with Kennedy was chief among them. If Buzz can turn this kid around, he has an SEC First Team ceiling.

2. I can’t get a feel for A&M this year. Yes they bring in Buzz Williams to coach and leading scorer and rebounder Savion Flagg is back for another season, but the league as a whole is improving. What’s a realistic expectation for this season?

I’d like to avoid the opening night of the SEC Tournament. That Wednesday night is nothing short of a clown show, effectively trotting out the four worst teams to play for peanuts while the rest of the league trickles into Nashville. If we avoid injury trouble, I expect us to at least edge towards the middle of the conference.

3. Game three, November 15. Gonzaga comes to town. What are you looking for in the Gonzaga game?

Fans. Because in another first in program history, we paired a big non-conference home game with an SEC home football weekend (South Carolina). This is the first chance for Buzz to show that the program is under new ownership, and I expect we’ll see the type of turnout rarely seen prior to Christmas break around these parts. I really hope the team plays well that night, because it could lay the groundwork for a new swell of hoops support. As I’m sure y’all know, that’s not always easy to come by in the SEC.

4. Texas A&M plays Texas (YAAAAYYYY) but they’re playing in Fort Worth (BOOOOOOO), what will it take for these two to play each other on their home courts?

GBH prides ourselves on being the loudest members of the “play the damn game” minority, so I’m really glad you phrased the question this way. The easy answer is that both administrations refuse to bury their pride. Texas was at fault for the early stages of the breakup, but they’ve since come to the table... at which point we told them to pound sand. If both parties could simultaneously stop the nonsense, they’d realize there is an absolute boatload of money to be made by restarting this rivalry in every allowable sport. I’m glad we’re inching that direction, but the decision to play on a neutral court shows we still have a ways to go.

5. If Texas A&M has a successful basketball season, what or who is the biggest reason why?

Josh Nebo. Nebo played at a borderline All-SEC All-Defensive level last year, but he only did it for 20 minutes a game. This year, we need him for 30+ as the depth down low is awfully thin. If he can maintain that level of play and stay healthy for the majority of the season, the rest of our returning core (Flagg, Jay Jay Chandler, Wendell Mitchell, and TJ Starks) is strong enough to make some legitimate noise. But it all starts with Nebo.