When we entered this past weekend, the Aggie men's team developed a sense of wonder. A glint of hope that maybe we seeing the formation of a new era A&M basketball.
After we left this weekend, the sentiment behind the team was, "Is there anything else to watch?"
Nevertheless, we're only a third of the way into the season with a roster full of first-year players still trying to find their niche, and that journey continues tonight at Reed Arena against the Houston Cougars. The Cougs come into night also with two losses (which also came in a tournament) and provide an ample opportunity for the Ags to hit the reset button on the hangover that was the Corpus Christi Challenge.
With that, here are three things to watch for tonight's contest:
DYLAN WAIT-FOR-IT.... JOHNS!
I daydream sometimes about how Coach Kennedy and Dylan Johns met. I imagine coach walking the streets London, hands in his pockets, kicking pebbles across the asphalt. "I just need one player. One X-Factor to turn this program around." Coach was discouraged at first. Only such players go to programs like Kentucky or Kansas. He couldn't possibly stumble upon a diamond in the rough -
Then it happened. Before his eyes a little girl wept beneath a tree, asking anyone to help get her pet kitty out of a tree, but no one was tall enough. But lo and behold, a kind, lanky, 6-11 English chap walked up, reached up with ease and rescued the feline, along with a child's belief that good still lives in this world. For Coach Kennedy, it was love at first sight.
He approached the young lad, "Have you ever considered playing basketball?"
"What's basketball?" the Englishman replied.
Now for five minutes a game, we all get to experience the glory of Sir Dylan Johns.
Be Aggressive, B-E Aggressive
While three-point shooting crippled the Ags last weekend, perhaps a bigger cause for concern was the hesitancy to drive to the basket. Missouri State ran zone defense for close to the entirety of the ball game, and A&M responded by passing the ball around the perimeter and jacking up contested shots as the shot clock wore down. By the end of the game when the Ags got into desperation mode, they began taking chances and drove through the zone with relative ease and success.
The new rules for NCAA basketball basically prohibit defenders from touching the ball handler. Guys like Fabyon Harris, J-Mychal Reese and Jordan Green NEED to take advantage of the new rules. They have the skill to get by defenders and draw fouls. Watching the team, it seems like they wait for players to become wide open to shoot or drive to the basket. Sometimes the window is small and only lasts for a moment. For this team to grow, they must gain the confidence to make the pass or take the drive when the opportunity presents itself.
Shake It Up
The game after the Missouri State debacle, Coach Kennedy did not hesitate to change things up and inserted Davonte Fitzgerald into the starting lineup. The freshman did not disappoint, going 3-4 from long distance and leading the team with 12 points. He also played only 19 minutes, the lowest of the starters and lower than two players on the bench (Reece and Tavaro Miller).
Kennedy has plenty of options at the guard position so December may look like a carousel of various lineups in search of the one that gels the most. I like Fitgerald's athleticism and if he continues to be efficient at three-point shooting, the contest for the starting 2-guard position may be his to lose.
The Ags look to bounce and come out with a bunch of energy in the first ten minutes... Then that dreaded zone defense arrives. For the rest of the game, we watch a back and forth affair of bad shooting and turnovers. In the final three minutes, our beloved Ags pull through with some clutch THREE-POINT SHOOTING.
Ags Win! 65-60