Out with A Whimper: A&M Falls in CBI Quarterfinal

USA TODAY Sports

Monday's loss to Illinois State says a lot about the state of A&M's basketball program.

Last week, head coach Billy Kennedy gave an interview on TexAgs radio on Texas A&M's entrance into the CBI Tournament. At one point, Olin Buchanan brought up all of the many close calls suffered by the maroon and white. The overtime losses to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Back to back last minute losses to Missouri and Auburn. Buchanan asked Kennedy if he ever thought about those losses and what the season could have been if those losses had been victories.

Kennedy began with his disappointment over the Ags' double-OT loss against Mizzou and A&M's inability to close out the ballgame. "I didn't even think we'd made the CBI," he said. He followed with listing the team's various issues. "Interior defense... Hitting a big shot... Making free throws." Monday night, the same problems that have plagued the season finally put it to an end with A&M's defeat against Illinois State in front of >2300 people at Redbird Arena. For most of the game, the Ags and Redbirds were at a stalemate. But when Illinois State started to hit some shots and make a run, A&M could not match it. Once again, shots clanged off the rim and free throws went unmade. And when the clock hit 00:00, A&M earned another "L" against a team outside of the RPI 100.

Kennedy concluded his response in the interview with, "I know what our problem is, I know what needs to be fixed... We just didn't have enough, we didn't have enough guys to finish it." On one hand, there is validity in that statement. After all, the team dealt with several curve balls this season with the departure of J-Mychal Reese and the roadblocks preventing Tony Trocha from being on the team. But Kennedy's response brings a troubling question: What does it say about a team that knows what its problems are but is unable to fix them?

In the end, Kennedy's thoughts were that the program was heading in the right direction and, as we've heard, he's been assured that he'll be here another year. Meanwhile, two schools that have similarly struggled, Auburn and Virginia Tech, went out and hired two big-name coaches in Bruce Pearl and Buzz Williams. Within the week they were hired, one arrived on campus in a jet to a large crowd of welcoming fans (Pearl) and the other was on CBS talking March Madness and wearing his school's colors (Williams).

So despite barely going over .500 with the cake-iest of schedules and not being able to reach the semi-finals in a tournament that multiple teams declined to be in, the Aggie basketball team is heading in the right direction. Next season, Kennedy will have the most talented roster of his tenure. So if we're at this same point next year, what then will the excuse be?

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