Gigthem08 (GT): Greetings, old friend! We’ve had a relatively uneventful few weeks since we last spoke. We lost some games, we won some games, and we gave up at home and had everyone thinking the season was over… which, of course, meant it was time to run off three straight to close out the conference slate at 9-9.
Where on earth do you stand on this season?
Melvin Franchione (MF): Yeah that’s a complicated question asked as a simple one right? There are some levels here. Any year that we make the NCAA Tournament, in the context of Aggie Basketball history, is at least a pretty good season right? Almost has to be.
But, it shouldn’t have been this difficult. We’re probably going to come up just short of what I’d have said would be the goal for the regular season (to be at least a 4-5 seed), but given the injuries, I think even that is understandable.
GT: This school loves to show the absolute top of the ceiling as quickly as possible, don’t they. I agree with your overall assessment, but there’s also a part of me that thinks the natives would have been a little more calm with an extra non-conference loss mixed in. Or to at least not destroy every P5 opponent we played early.
But, as we all know, that’s not the way we do things, and it’s tough to look at this season as a whole without considering Billy Kennedy a prisoner of his early success. He should have done better, he didn’t, there were some kinda valid reasons why he didn’t, and the whole situation would have been easier to handle had we not been as good early.
In conclusion, we have 31 data points and I have no idea how to assess anything we’ve done. It’s been that kinda year.
MF: I dunno, I think maybe I disagree a little bit with the showing the ceiling early bit. The West Virginia game was always going to be weird since it was at midnight halfway around the world, and then USC and some of the other teams ended up being not very good. So our early wins maybe weren’t as good as we thought at the time. And our best win of the season came relatively late, the win at Auburn was our best game.
But yeah, you can probably make any argument you want about this team and find a way to support it.
GT: That seems like a recipe for complete and total harmony across the entirety of the Aggie Internet.
I’ll be honest, I thought the season was completely done for after that dud at home against MSU. It was among the most disappointing things I’ve seen from any team wearing an A&M uniform, and the subsequent rally to win our last three has me as about as confused as I’ve ever been.
In your opinion, what has been the key to our recent winning streak to close the season?
MF: It seems like any time something bad happens to us, it takes us a while to find our footing again, but we do seem to find it. This time it was the loss of Duane Wilson against Kentucky (and Caldwell and Chandler for a couple of games.) We tried to plug and play Collins the next game against Missouri and that didn’t work, and I’m not sure anything would have helped against Arkansas the way they played that game. I’m not even going to talk about that MSU game, but then we seemed to find our footing behind TJ Starks. No longer a change-of-pace role player, he’s now the center of our offense, and that’s been the difference the last few games.
Though he was absolutely horrible against Alabama and I thought our team showed some serious resiliency to still be able to win, but Chandler had a really good game.
GT: He did, and that’s a pretty solid segue into our other improvement: the bench
We haven’t had earth shattering performances from Jay Jay, Trocha, and Flagg… but lately at least two of them are giving us quality minutes every night. As long as the bench doesn’t give us a dud, we have the top end talent to beat quality opposition.
MF: Also, let’s be honest, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Alabama aren’t very good, so I still think there are some questions about how good we may or may not be at the moment.
I have a question that might be a turn into “so now what do we expect” talk, but it’s a microcosm of the problem with Kennedy to me. The things that should be easy, seem to be made into things that are difficult.
Specifically our refusal on saturday to just simply give the ball to Tyler Davis almost made my head explode. So, the question, why is just giving the ball to Davis so difficult? It’s the “run the damn ball” of basketball. Davis was 9 for 11 from the field on Saturday, EVERYONE ELSE was 14 for 48.
GT: I don’t know why it’s so difficult, but if that’s “run the damn ball” then every set where he rotates from the weak side to aimlessly catch the ball at the top of the key is “fade on 4th and 1” frustrating.
He hasn’t really added the 12-15 footer that I was hoping to see this year, but his last significant possession against Alabama (where he caught the ball at the high post and power-bombed his way to the rim) shows that he doesn’t really need it at this level.
I would love to see him get the ball more often, but I think it’s something we’re destined to never see. Just like a snap under center on 3rd and 1 or these “tight ends” I keep hearing about.
MF: I have a theory that Kennedy and his assistants do a Princess Bride poison thing with our offense. Like we think that our opponents think that we think that they’re going to think we’re going to try to give it to Tyler Davis so we try to do something else.
But, that kind of brings me to the next question, now what? Do we have any hope that we’re going to do anything in the SEC Tournament?
GT: Yes and no. Yes, I think we have the ability to win the rubber match against Alabama and sweep Auburn. No, I do not think we have the ability to follow that up with a performance that can defeat another theoretical “top four” team immediately afterwards.
I can’t imagine anyone is excited to see us in their half of the bracket, but I also can’t imagine that we’ll play at a title-winning consistency for four straight days. Does that make sense? I don’t even know anymore.
MF: Yeah, I sort of expect us to beat Alabama but I’ll be kind of surprised if we beat Auburn. It sure doesn’t seem like Admon Gilder is at 100%, so I can’t imagine he’d be good on back to back days and other than Davis he’s probably our most valuable player, especially against Auburn’s guards.
GT: There really are a wide range of outcomes. Fortunately, we’re in the enviable position of not really needing anything this weekend, as we’re really only playing for seeding. How do you feel about our current projection in the 7/8/9 range, and what would we need to do to move significantly in either direction?
MF: I thought about doing some bubble/bracketology stuff on here, but honestly because of the changes to the team sheets
I think everyone is kind of wandering in the dark. I actually think the committee is going to seed us higher than most people are thinking. I think if we beat Alabama we’re probably a six, and if we were to beat Auburn, I think we’ve got an outside shot at a five.
For a few different reasons, namely the injuries in the middle of the season, I think the committee is going to like us better than the pure metrics do. But again, with the new emphasis on a couple of different things this year, it’s hard to use history to guess what they might do.
GT: I can guess at least one thing they’ll try to do - pair us with a Big XII team. We’ve got Texas and Baylor looming near the 10/11 line, Tech flirting with a 3, and a pair of tasty 6/11 matchups in nearby Dallas, TX.
Is there any way we avoid a Big-XII-pocalypse?
MF: Haha, I’m not a committee conspiracy theorist like most people, but this year it just happens to work out where there’s a good chance we’re going to get one of them. If we assume Tech is a 3 and that Texas and Baylor are 11’s, then none of them could be in the same bracket together, so we’d basically have a 75% chance of getting one of them if we’re a six.
But Texas might be above the 11 line, Baylor might not even get in, and Tech could still make some moves in the Big 12 Tournament so who knows.
GT: That would just about seal our fate, wouldn’t it. I’ve already got my all-session pass to the AAC, and I’m 100% not ready for an NCAA game against Texas or Baylor. I barely survived the preseason game in Houston, and that was a hastily thrown together game for charity.
MF: Bring ‘em on, I say. I’m not going to like a small part of me was sad when Northern Iowa hit that halfcourt shot to beat Texas in 2016 because I was ready to bring the hate. I’m always hate-ready.
GT: I have to respectfully disagree in one area - the ensuing social media comedy roast was among Aggie Twitter’s finest moments, and I’m not sure I’d be willing to give that up. But other than that - yes, it would have been awesome, and it would certainly be awesome if it happens this year.
MF: I said small part, haha. I was in the arena and seeing their faces was amazing. I wish I could have bottled that feeling.
GT: Who knows, maybe we’ll get another chance. I’ll bring a fresh bottle to the AAC just in case.
MF: Or the committee could send us to Detroit, who knows! Nothing like scrambling together travel plans on Selection Sunday, truly one of the great college basketball traditions.
GT: Can’t wait. Let’s catch up next week to pick through the carnage.
MF: Can’t wait, and I’d like to end with this. We have all offseason to decide the future trajectory of the program and talk about Billy Kennedy, but it’s March and damn it feels good to know the Ags are going dancing again.
GT: Amen to that. BTHO everyone.
How do you feel about the 2017-2018 regular season?
This poll is closed
We’re in the dance, and this program has too little dance history to complain about seeding
We should be seeded higher, but the late rally to make the tourney should be commended
This team has too much talent to struggle the way they have, and anything short of a deep tourney run will be a disappointment