It’s our favorite time of year.
We’re not talking about Christmas, New Year’s, or the holiday season in general... we’re talking about the morning after the Bowl Game. Because that means it’s time for the three of us to grab the keys and turn GBH into a Winter Hoops Wonderland.
Are y’all ready? That was rhetorical. It’s happening either way.
Let’s do this.
What is your overall reaction to our non-conference resume? And what is your preferred intake method for raw, unfiltered Aggie Hoops Kool-Aid?
Gigthem08: Honestly, the results this season have been incredible. Of course, any time you start THAT good against a team like West Virginia, you're going to dip a little... but the problems have been few and far between. As for the intake method, I prefer a beer bong from the third story of a sleazy PCB motel.
DerekAggie06: If you set an 11-1 Over/Under for the non-conference schedule I think it's safe to say everyone would have taken the under. Have the Ags looked consistently great? Not even close. Has the competition turned out to be as good as we expected? Eh, jury's out on a few of them. Any way you look at it this team is 11-1 and ranked fifth in the nation, so go ahead and set that unfiltered kool-aid down on the table next to my rolled up dollar bill.
MelvinFranchione: The best part about the non conference to me is that it's already definitely a success and we still have one more chance for a good non conference win thanks to the SEC/Big 12 challenge. Our resume is great, ESPN BPI's Strength of record has it sixth in the country. Sally, off the court issues have put a bit of a damper on what should be a community mainlining of Kool aid.
Okay, so it was a great start to the season... but it wasn't perfect. What went wrong in our loss at Arizona?
DA: In my opinion it's the thing that I haven't been able to get past and see far too often in Kennedy's teams. They consistently play to their opponents' strengths and away from their weaknesses. It's a bit different than the "playing down to your opponents" story in my mind. A team is good in transition, we settle for long jumpers. A team is smaller in the paint, we settle for long jumpers. I'm waiting for this team to be able to consistently impose their will on a better than average opponent.
MF: That game came down to a couple things for me. The first was officiating. They let Arizona's perimeter players put their hands all over our guys, which is supposed to be a foul. Basically they didn't call any of the things that have been points of emphasis the last few years.
But that said, our guys didn't adjust. We could not get anyone open in the second half. If I'm recalling correctly not a single perimeter player even attempted a three pointer in the second half. I thought Arizona's game plan was creative. Most teams try to take Tyler Davis away, they tried to take everything else away and it worked. I don't know if it would work twice, but it worked once.
GT: For maybe the first time at A&M, Robert Williams played small on both sides of the ball. He's been underwhelming on offense for large stretches this season, but the defense and rebounding have still been great. With one exception. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton was every bit Williams' match in size, athleticism and skill... and Robert wasn't up for the fight.
Oh, and the referees had trouble running up and down the court with Zona cash lining their pockets.
Duane Wilson probably gets the nod for 'biggest surprise' of the young season. What else surprised you in our opening twelve games?
MF: On the court the biggest surprise other than Wilson has to be how big of roles the freshmen are playing. For such a veteran team, we’ve been bailed out a couple times already by the young guys. And that's partially because the real surprise is the off the court issues. This is the best team we've ever assembled and we can't keep it on the court. Two players, both of which were supposed to be leaders on this team, have been suspended twice already!
GT: Honestly, it's our ability to blow teams out of the water. Prior A&M teams, even the good ones, won by wearing you down over the course of 40 minutes... but this crew routinely flips games in 3-5 minute spurts. Every significant win up to this point has been buoyed by a dagger run that put the game on ice, which is refreshing to see.
DA: I've been impressed with how aggressive the freshmen are, but the biggest surprise for me is how average Robert Williams has looked. He's blocking shots and has his share of highlight dunks, but it's disappointing to see what I think is a lack of development thus far.
SEC hoops received an unusually large amount of preseason hype. How have the early results held up against those expectations?
GT: Some early ranked teams (cough Florida cough Alabama) have faded early, but the overall results have been solid. And I still feel those teams will turn it around. The kicker is our second tier of teams - that crew is by far the strongest it has been since we joined the conference.
DA: The fever has struck a few teams, but the conference is currently sitting at third in conference RPI rankings and sitting in first in the strength of schedule ranking. I won't argue with the maths.
MF: Yeah, the SEC ain't the Big 12 or ACC, but it does finally have quality depth this year even though some teams aren't quite what we expected. Could see as many as seven teams in the field on Selection Sunday, even though most of them aren't any sort of threat to be top line seeds.
Which portion of our conference schedule gives you the greatest cause for concern?
DA: For me it is without a doubt the start. Alabama, Florida, LSU, Kentucky, and then Tennessee. Three of those five are on the road. The Aggies may not have Admon Gilder for any of that stretch. A rough start there could be really bad for the mindset of the team going forward.
MF: Yeah it's gotta be the start, especially since you can bet that our team remembers the beatdown Kentucky put on us around this time last year.
GT: Suspensions, injuries, and the recent arrival of Tennessee has turned our opening five games into a nightmare scenario. If I can get 3-2 out of that bunch (@Bama, Florida, LSU, @Kentucky, @Tennessee), I'd take it and run.
Call your shot - how does the conference season play out?
MF: Man, I dunno, the off court problems are like a tiny voice in the back of my head trying to destroy all my dreams. But if we can keep everyone on the court, we definitely look the part of a team than can do it all. I like us to win the SEC, get a two seed, and then from there I guess it's up to the basketball gods. (Starts hyperventilating…)
GT: First of all, I'm choosing to be optimistic about our recurring off-court issues - a return to semester life and the beginning of conference play will be the end of that nonsense. Assuming that holds true, we are still very much in play for a special season. The depth, versatility, and talent level of this roster is still capable of some things this program has never seen.
Put me down for a top three finish in conference, a trip to the SEC Tourney final, and a second weekend appearance in the NCAA's. And if we catch the right matchups, it could truly be a special season for Texas A&M Basketball.
DA: I'm downgrading my preseason pick to 12-6, but I think it could easily be worse than that. The off the court issues and inability to look solid from start to finish over the break raise some flags for me. I'd like to be wrong here because I think this team has all of the tools to get a really great tournament seed and to make a long run there.