Can Aggie Hoops Turn Things Around in 2012

Mar 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy calls out a play against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half of the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center. Kansas defeated Texas A&M 83-66. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

Don't worry. Your clock isn't lying to you. It really is September 6th, and this really is an article about college basketball. With a little over a month until Midnight Madness kicks off across the nation, it's never too early to take a look at what lies ahead for Coach Billy Kennedy and the Aggie Hoops program. The full schedule has been released for the 2012-2013 season and plenty of intriguing match ups await the Aggies on their journey to get back to the Dance.

It is still tough to stomach everything that went wrong last season for the Aggie Hoops program (14-18, 4-14 Big 12). The long list of health problems and injuries, mid-season transfers, and adjusting to a new system under a new coach all plagued the team in a season that just seemed to drag on. There were games where fans were able to catch a glimpse of what type of play to expect under Coach Kennedy. However, those glimpses were short-lived as every step forward resulted in two steps back. Productivity and efficiency were very low with players playing out of position, walk-ons taking on a major role, and young guys getting some major minutes.

Points per Game Rebounds per Game Assists per Game Field Goal %
61. ppg 34.1 rpg 11.7 apg 43.2%
304th 196th 268th 186th

With a team RPI that ranged from 114 to 166 depending on the rating service you reference, it's easy to say there is plenty of room for improvement. Coach Kennedy and his staff brought in a great recruiting class to build the program they want in Aggieland. JUCO signees Fabyon Harris and Andrew Young are prototype players for Kennedy's system, and they should be making a major impact by Game 1. My gut tells me that we will see a vastly improved product on the court for the Aggies this season. My gut also once told me it was a good idea to buy chili from the food trailer in downtown Austin, and I ended up in the hospital after that adventure. So, who knows.

Out of Conference Schedule

The OOC schedule for the Aggies this season shapes up very favorably for Kennedy and crew. Now that I've said that, the OOC schedule absolutely leaves plenty to be desired by the Aggie Hoops fan and season ticket holder. It's easy to get upset by the lack of a Top-100 RPI opponent making an early season appearance at Reed Arena, but fans have to remember what the staff is trying to do. These early season games need to be primers for what is going to be a very different rotation on the court this season. While it is great to have guys like Elston Turner and Ray Turner ready for huge senior seasons, their supporting cast needs these types of match ups early on. Here's a look at the OOC schedule from Aggie Athletics.

Date Opponent Location
Nov 9 Louisiana Tech College Station
Nov 12 Troy College Station
Nov 15 Prairie View A&M College Station
Nov 19 Saint Louis (CBE Classic) Kansas City
Nov 20 Kansas or Washington State (CBE Classic) Kansas City
Nov 26 Northwestern State College Station
Dec 1 Houston Houston
Dec 5 SFA College Station
Dec 15 Oklahoma (All-College Classic) Oklahoma City
Dec 18 Texas A&M - C.C. College Station
Dec 22 Southern College Station
Dec 29 Army College Station
Jan 4 Houston Baptist College Station

There are a few games that jump off that list. The obvious is the game against Oklahoma in the All-College Classic in Oklahoma City. I can only imagine the amount of sleep that is being lost in trailers across the state of Oklahoma as they ponder what kind of punishment the Longhorns will dish out for breaking the Never-Play-A&M-Ever-In-Anything vow. The All-College Classic is typically a four team tournament. In my recent conversation with Tim Brassfield, Executive Director of OKC All Sports, he mentioned media arrangements may limit this year's tournament to just the Aggies and Sooners.

One game that Aggie Hoops fans definitely need to keep an eye on is the November 19th game against the Saint Louis Billikens. Yes, their mascot is a charm bird that an art teacher claims to have seen in a dream (Really, I'm not making that up). The Billikens finished last season second in a solid Atlantic 10 Conference. They finished the season with an RPI of 26 and a Strength of Schedule (SOS) that ranked just behind that of the Aggies. The Billikens lose their leading score from last season, but return plenty of depth for 2012-2013. Kwamain Mitchell is a returning senior who averaged 12.4 ppg and played the most minutes of anyone on their roster last season. Two other players to watch out for in this game are returning rebound leader Dwayne Evans and Cody Ellis, a major contributor off that bench last year that will be playing a much bigger role on the team this season.

That being said, the only game in the OOC schedule that you could heavily lean towards being a loss is the potential game against the Kansas Jayhawks in the second game of the CBE Classic. The team should be riding a very high wave of momentum as they jump head first into their first experience at an 18-game SEC conference schedule.

My OOC Crazy Early Pointless Prediction: 11-2

SEC Conference Schedule

This is when things are going to get really fun for Aggie Hoops fans out there. On the day the conference schedule was first released, everyone's eyes dialed in on Saturday, February 2nd and saw Kentucky making the trip to Reed Arena. In what will obviously be a completely sold out Arena, it's going to be great see how Coach Kennedy's team handles the pressure of facing the defending champs for the first time in the SEC at home. The conference schedule brings some exciting teams to College Station in year one, and I expect attendance from former students and current students to great for these games (Yes, I'm aware that will probably start student-bashing threads on TexAgs).

Date Opponent Location
Jan 9
Arkansas
College Station
Jan 12
Kentucky
Lexington
Jan 17
Florida College Station
Jan 19
Alabama Tuscaloosa
Jan 23
LSU
Baton Rouge
Jan 26
Georgia
College Station
Jan 30
Mississippi State
Starkville
Feb 2
Kentucky
College Station
Feb 7
Missouri
College Station
Feb 9
Georgia
Athens
Feb 13
Ole Miss
College Station
Feb 16
Vanderbilt
Nashville
Feb 20 Auburn
Auburn
Feb 23 Tennessee
College Station
Feb 27 Ole Miss
Oxford
Mar 2
South Carolina
College Station
Mar 6
LSU
College Station
Mar 9
Arkansas
Fayetteville

Outside of Kentucky, there's a pretty sharp drop to the second level of talent in the SEC. Kentucky finished first in the SEC with a conference record of 16-0. Florida came in second in the SEC at 10-6. Pretty big drop, but be careful looking too much into that. Keep in mind that Florida beat the Aggies by 20 points last year in Florida. Also at 10-6 in the SEC last year: Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Teams that finished in the bottom half of the conference like LSU and Arkansas will show some improvement in the next couple of years, but still have some rebuilding to do. You also can't forget that former Big 12 opponent Missouri has joined us in the ranks of the SEC.

With the magic number to get to the dance set a baseline of 20, that leaves the Aggies needing 9 wins (based off my crazy-early-pointless prediction) out of the 18 SEC games. I'm looking at 7 confident wins with the opener against Arkansas at home, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss twice, South Carolina at home, and LSU at home. After that, I feel pretty safe looking at another win at LSU on January 23rd. That leaves the Aggies needing one win out of Alabama, Georgia Vanderbilt, Auburn, or Arkansas on the road. The safest bet there is to take wins on the road against Arkansas, Georgia, and Auburn. I'll assume a series split with Arkansas and Georgia and take the win against Auburn for 20 wins. Granted, with an OOC schedule that could be a spokesperson for a Charmin commercial, I'm fairly confident the Aggies will need to surpassthe 20 win mark to go dancing.

My Conference Crazy Early Pointless Prediction: 10-8 (This would be a massive jump for Coach Kennedy in his second year).

That gives the Aggies a combined record of 21-10, which you would be crazy to not be ecstatic about considering the previous season. A strong showing by the Aggies this year would go a long way towards locking down the high-level recruits the Aggies have on the 2013 radar like Keith Frazier and Karviar Shepherd.

Alright, I'll leave it at that and allow you to get back to your regularly scheduled programming of Statgasming in the Hate Barn.

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