In a season that looked like the Aggies might be capable of beating any team they face (see Kentucky), they also proved that they are more than capable of losing to any team they face (see Southern, Georgia, LSU, and on, and on, and on). The team finished the regular season with a 17-14 record overall, and a 7-11 record in conference play. For those of you keeping score at home that's good enough to finish eleventh in arguably the worst of the power conferences. There aren't enough fingers and toes among the Good Bull Hunting staff to point out the things to blame for the disappointing season. With all of that doom and gloom stuff stated, it's time to focus on the postseason. WARNING: I really, really love basketball in March.
Aggies in the SEC Tournament
When the conference standings were final this past weekend, I started breaking down the SEC Tournament bracket to look at the potential matchups for the Aggies and the other SEC teams. If you're going to finish at the bottom of the conference and have to play on day one of the tournament, you've got to look for positives somewhere. The Ags have the chance to face three opponents right out of the gate that they have definitely shown the ability to beat. The start off against a really terrible Auburn team, next lies a Missouri team that cannot seem to play a decent game away from their home court, and then a matchup against an Ole Miss team that is definitely beatable. It's a lot like lipstick on a pig, but at least there is some upside to where the Aggies stand in the tournament. Unfortunately, Texas A&M isn't exactly known as being a team that steps up big in post-season play. The Aggies are 22-35 all-time in conference tournaments. Another impossible fact to overlook is how inconsistent Coach Billy Kennedy's squad has been towards the second half of the season. The Aggies haven't won consecutive basketball games since drumroll please...January 12th when they opened SEC play with wins against Arkansas and Kentucky. I've already heard the "it's a new season" and "we're 0-0 starting today" cliches enough to last me all of March, but let's hope the Aggies are able to turn things around and set a new course for hoops success in the SEC Tournament.
Round 1 - #11 Texas A&M vs. #14 Auburn
One of the more convincing road wins of the season for Texas A&M this years was when they went to Auburn and came away with a 65-56 win. It wasn't convincing because of the score. It was convincing because they were able to go on the road and get a win without Fabyon Harris who sat out with an injury. Elston Turner scored 21 and Alex Caruso dropped 14. No other player had more than 7 points for A&M in that game. The Aggies controlled the rebounding advantage (Roberson had 10 boards), only committed 11 turnovers (a good number for this team on the season), and didn't have any player in foul trouble, despite playing with an even further depleted roster. The big factor in this game was the free throw shooting. The Aggies got to the free throw line 20 times and walked away with 16 points at the charity stripe.
Auburn doesn't pose any critical threats to the Aggies' chances of getting their first SEC Tournament win. Hell, they haven't won a basketball game since February 6th. The Tigers rely on their two guards Chris Denson and Frankie Sullivan to carry the load for the team. The only way they are going to challenge the Aggies is if their big men are able to step up and control the area around the rim. No matter how many times I look at this game, I simply don't see a way the undersized bigs for Auburn are going to be able to make enough of an impact on the game to open things up for their guards.
The big question for the Aggies is going to be how much of a factor is Elston Turner's injury. Even if Elston isn't able to play at 100%, simply being on the floor is enough of an impact to open things up for his teammates. I'd expect to see a little zone defense from Auburn early to test Elston's ability to go left with the injury and not let him use screens for easy jump shots. The difference maker for me in this game is Fabyon Harris. This is the time of year when guards matter more than they have the past four months. Despite the time of year, Fabyon is always going to be the key for this Aggie team. He plays with a level of passion and love for the game that coaches would kill for every player on their team to have. Another player to keep an eye on in this one is Jordan Green. In a down year for the sophomore, he had the best game of his collegiate career last week. Let's see if Jordan is able to keep that momentum going against Auburn tonight.