Quick note: The Aggies open the 2016-2017 season at home tonight against Northwestern State (8pm; SECN). We’ll have a GameThread up later today.
Before we jump to the preseason thoughts, here’s a quick recap of our basketball coverage over the past month or so. If you enter the new season uninformed... it won’t be on us.
Finally, for a more detailed look at the off-season (including thoughts on individual recruits), you can always hit our GBH Texas Aggie Men’s Basketball page.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s hit some final preseason thoughts on Texas A&M Basketball.
Who’s your most valuable player?
gigthem08: Admon Gilder. The NCAA ineligibility ruling of pass-happy JJ Caldwell leaves this roster with a giant hole at point guard, and Gilder is the closest thing we have to fill it. It's not his natural skill set, but it's one he's certainly capable of performing. We have able backups fighting for 2nd team action, but we need Gilder as a playmaker for 30+ minutes a night if we're going to be successful. It's a lot to ask for four solid months, but it's what we need.
JDMyatt: DJ Hogg. Obviously, you won't be wrong going with either of the big 3 of Hogg, Admon Gilder, or Tyler Davis. Last season was up and down for Hogg but the sophomore has all of the size and ability to take this team to another level when he gets going. At 6'9, Hogg will most likely get some looks in the post smaller rotations. With his 3-point range, a small-ball lineup with Hogg at the 4 and Trocha-Morelos or Davis at the 5 could have a quite a bit of firepower. He will be counted on to be a key contributor on offense, and if he can take a leap this season, it could ensure a tournament berth as well as potential 1st team All-SEC honors.
Surprise breakout player? (Not Davis, Gilder, or Hogg)
gigthem08: Robert Williams. This kid is going to put some people on posters this year, and he appears capable of hosting a defensive block party on any given night. The rest of his game still needs time to fill out, but he can jump through the ceiling. He's going to give us some really fun moments.
JDMyatt: Robert Williams and it's not even close. All reports show the freshman will turn some heads and provide plenty of highlights. While he has a couple of areas of his game to develop, he combines strength and hustle with incredible athleticism. Look for a few moments when Williams will give the Aggies a huge spark with a thunderous dunk or block a shot a few rows into the stands.
Biggest key to success this season?
gigthem08: Guard play and health. We have the horses down low to hang with anyone, but College Basketball is still a guard-driven game. We need to take care of the basketball, and we've gotta have enough shooting to give Davis room to operate. On the injury side, our ideal eight-man rotation can hold up in SEC play... but things might get dicey if we have to absorb injuries. We need the type of season we got from our 2012 Aggie Football Defense, where stamina and injury luck masked our lack of depth.
JDMyatt: Admon Gilder. He will be taking over the role of leader and backbone of this squad that Alex Caruso's held for the last four years. He'll also be the only returning guard who will be playing heavy minutes all season. If Gilder goes down, there will be a huge void in the backcourt.
What are you excited to see?
gigthem08: I'm excited to see year two of Tyler Davis. He could hang against quality opposition from day one, and by the end of his Freshman year he was doing whatever he wanted to do against SEC upperclassmen. The first-team All-SEC selection and inclusion in the National Top 100 College Players list (#73) is going to take a big step forward this year. And if he adds a 12-15 foot jumper to his game (rumors abound that this is what he's trying to do), he's going to be simply unguardable.
JDMyatt: The Davis/Gilder/Hogg era. Last year belonged to the senior trio of Alex Caruso, Danuel House, and Jalen Jones, but now the reigns get to be passed over to the new big three. This core of guys have a blast playing with one another and it's truly something special to watch when they fire on all cylinders. They have already proven they can shine on the biggest stage and step up in pressure-packed situations (see: Gilder's game-tying layup vs Northern Iowa and Tyler Davis in, well, any game). There are challenges ahead, but this group has proven they won't back down from any obstacle.
What are you concerned for?
gigthem08: We're going to have to play a lot of zone. That's not Kennedy's first choice, but this rotation will demand it for large portions of the game. We have some limited defensive guys who will get minutes and we'll have guys out of position for small stretches, so for some portions of the game man-to-man just won't be an option. I'm nervous any time a roster forces you to go against your coaching staff's strength.
JDMyatt: Who else steps up after the trio? There is bound to be a game when Tyler Davis gets in foul trouble, or Gilder/Hogg is having an off night. Who will be the guy to rise up in those moments? Tonny Trocha-Morelos showed he can light it up from 3, but also disappeared on more than a few instances. Robert Williams and Tavario Miller will be bulls down low and grab tough rebounds, but can they finish and get buckets underneath the basket? There are many question marks outside of the big three and I predict it will cause both excitement and extreme frustration.
gigthem08: In a world where we don't have to absorb any major injuries, we're certainly capable of a Top 4 SEC finish and an invite to the NCAA Tournament... but our floor is much lower than it has been in years past. Significant injury issues among our main rotation would be catastrophic, and we still run the risk of our guards (who will be forced to play huge minutes) fading down the stretch (ala 2014-2015).
Since I have to pick, I'll say a #4 seed in the SEC tournament and a very, very nervous Selection Sunday that will probably be dependent on our conference tourney run.
JDMyatt: #SECBasketballFever is coming, and it's coming strong. There will be times when the Ags may look like a contender for a 2nd straight SEC Title, but be prepared for the hype to be followed by confounding loss to opponents we shouldn't lose to. With so much volatility on the roster, this season will be quite the roller coaster ride, but one I believe will end in our favor. Fans will be reading ESPN's Bubble Watch on the daily, but ultimately the Ags squeak in and snag a 9-seed in the tournament.
What are your predictions for Texas Aggie Hoops this year?