The three bouncyball writers here on the Good Bull Hunting Staff are dishing their thoughts on the hottest five topics surrounding the Aggie Basketball team. Share your thoughts on our topics in the comments below.
1. Which player has impressed you the most this season?
DerekAggie06 - Caruso is really close to being my pick here. This is a local kid that's a consistent jump shot away from finding himself in the NBA in two years. The good news for the Ags is he has two years to keep improving it. I've got to go with the young fella in Davonte Fitzgerald. He's not getting consistent minutes and that's fair with how inconsistent he's been as a shooter. What has impressed me the most about Davonte is the flashes of next-level athleticism and scoring ability we've seen from him. He's going to be a really exciting player for the Aggies in the next few years, and he's the kind of player you can get excited about as he gets more minutes and more comfortable with the speed and level of play.
gigthem08 - I knew Caruso was going to do his thing this year, so I’ll go with Jamal Jones. His ability to adapt in the Arkansas game gives me hope that we may have a legitimate scorer on our hands, even on nights when his outside shot isn’t falling.
JDMyatt - Other than "His Majesty from Overseas" Dylan Johns? Jamal Jones has been a nice surprise, but my pick has to go to Jordan Green. This kid came to A&M with some nice YouTube highlights and was seen, along with former player Jamal Branch, to be the next generation of players to take the reigns from the Donald Sloan/Bryan Davis era. But by the end of last season, Green had no confidence whatsoever on the basketball court and was on the brink of quitting the team. Now he's become a vocal leader on this young squad, plays lockdown defense and doesn't turn the ball over on offense. We could use some more scoring from him, he has the skills to, but Jordan Green has improved immensely since his freshman year.
2. Which player from the past could be the biggest help to the current roster (and you can't pick Acie Law)?
JDMyatt - Joseph Jones. The Pride of Normangee was tough, strong and could consistently hit outside shots. Antwan Space hasn't really come into the existence on offense, and the lack of a true "4" has affected Kourtney Roberson's production as well. A guy like Jones who fought inside the paint but could also spread the floor with his shooting would make a pretty fun starting five. Lastly, the Alex Caruso/Joseph Jones pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop would be beautiful to watch.
DerekAggie06 - I want to go with Donald Sloan right now because he is one of my favorites, but I'm going to surprise some people here and go with the Lithuanian Lighting in Antanas Kavaliauskas. The big fella provided a scoring threat from the high post that the Aggies desperately need since opposing teams know our zone offense is a hot mess. AK averaged 12 points a game on 58% shooting his senior year. That kind of efficiency from the high post this season would be a game changer.
gigthem08 - Bryan Davis. Too often this team has to sacrifice rebounding/defense for help on O, and vice versa. A bonafide rebounder + shot blocker with post presence that demands a double team would do wonders for this offense.
3. What is your biggest area of concern now that conference play has started?
gigthem08 - Offensive consistency. We lost to UNT by 20 and beat the Razorbacks by 16? Then pooped in the fridge and ate a whole wheel of cheese? I’m not even mad. Arkansas showed us that our defense can keep us in any game, but the offensive execution has to be there on a night in, night out basis. It’s the biggest key in the upcoming conference run.
JDMYatt - A&M's offense against the zone. It's the boss level that A&M just can't figure out. The inconsistency on 3-point shooting along with being hesitant to drive to the basket has crippled the offense all season when facing this defense. One of the biggest factors in the Arkansas victory was the Razorback's baffling stubbornness to stick with man defense, which A&M promptly ripped through with pick-and-rolls. If Jamal Jones and guys like Davonte Fitzgerald and Shawn Smith hit outside shots like they did Wednesdaynight, the Ags may finally conquer the dreaded defense... But that is quite a big "If".
DerekAggie06 - The zone offense is such an easy answer on this one. Since JD already tackled it, I'll go with guard play. I was really happy to see Fabyon Harris bounce back after getting the start against Arkansas. The Aggies went small to combat what Arkansas likes to throw at teams and it worked. Fabyon is a guy that needs confidence on the floor and Wednesday was a big step in the right direction. With the absence of J-Mychal Reese and a true PG on the roster, Fabyon is going to have to be consistent with his recent play for the rest of conference play.
4. Rate our offense on a 1-10 scale. What about the defense?
DerekAggie06 - Offense - Somewhere just above dry-heave. We are entirely too prone to go on scoring droughts of 5-6+ minutes. The zone offense, yeah, let's not bring that up again. It's maddening that we aren't able to consistently attack it and force teams to play differently. That's not going to get any easier against lengthy teams like, well, like the rest of our conference schedule. Hopefully they will all be stubborn like Arkansas and stick to a man defense. Defense - 7. The only reason I'm not going to an 8 is because we have a tendency to be over-aggressive. That gets out of position a little too frequently for my liking in the rebounding battles. Related to that is a disappointing ability to beat the other team down the court off a missed shots and allowing them to get setup in their zone defense. We play into the other team's strengths too often here. Other than that, I'm being pretty picky about the defense, which has been solid.
gigthem08 - Offense – 4: Last in the SEC in PPG, 12th in FG%, and 11th in 3PT%. The offense has worked in patches, but I need to see it work twice in a row before I proclaim a great revival. Defense – 9: Can’t give it a 10 due to the effort in a couple of our losses, but the defense has been very good. 2nd in the SEC in PPG against, and first in FG% against.
JDMYatt - Offense - 3. If the offense was a 5, then A&M would be undefeated right now. Since the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game, the Ags have yet to top 75 points. Beating the Razorbacks was a good time and showed how fun this team can be when they're clicking on all cylinders, but A&M has made basketball look really difficult on this side of the court the past six weeks. Defense - 9. They've now held TWO top ten offenses (OU and Arkansas) to season lows in points scored, and kept themselves in every ball game so far (outside of North Texas, which...ugh, I don't know, moving on). The one time they allowed over 70 points was when Keaton Page reanimated himself on the Missouri State squad. The season may be pretty ugly thus far, but with A&M's play on defense, they can never be taken lightly, as Arkansas just experienced.
5. We've all seen the post-season or bust rumors. Should Billy Kennedy keep his job if the Ags don't make the postseason this year?
JDMYatt - Before the North Texas debacle, absolutely. There is no excuse suitable enough to justly explained how badly A&M performed against a team that they were supposed to beat handily. I know the J-Mychal Reese departure and the Tony Trocha situation have been speed bumps, but there really is enough talent on this team to compete in the SEC, let alone the cupcake non-conference schedule A&M just played. The only hesitation I have is on who would be the replacement. I've heard some outcries for Bruce Pearl, but I don't know how realistic that is. Plus, despite the lack of success, Kennedy is still pulling in some pretty nice recruits (Top 50 recruit Alex Robinson and SMU transfer Jalen Jones) so maybe one year should be given? I just talked myself out of it, I truly don't know. Just win Ags so we don't have to worry about it!
DerekAggie06 - No. I don't care that we are a football school as an excuse. There really is no excuse when you combine the resources, recruiting location, and fanbase. Coach Kennedy is 7-29 against Top 100 RPI teams since arriving at Texas A&M. Big wins over teams like Arkansas help, and so does the recruits we are pulling in. This is his team now and there's been plenty of time for him to get his system in. If it still isn't working and getting the program anywhere at the end of the season, I'm on board with making a change. And yes, making the NIT would be a very welcome surprise this year.
gigthem08 - If we make the NIT, yes. The SEC is looking like a three-bid league this year, so we’re basically battling 12 other schools for the non-Florida/Kentucky NCAA spot. That’s a tough ask. The NIT would represent improvement, which is what we have wanted all along. If he misses out on the postseason entirely, it’s time to move on.