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Aggie Basketball Tips Off Against North Florida

Assistant Coach Devin Johnson fills in as Head Coach Buzz Williams serves the first of his two-game suspension

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Aggie men’s basketball team will open the regular season tonight at Reed Arena at 7:00 PM against the Ospreys of North Florida. For many fans outside of the Bryan-College Station area, this will be our first glimpse of the new look Aggies. It will also be the first game at the helm for Aggie Assistant Coach Devin Johnson while Buzz Williams sits out. Williams was suspended by the NCAA for two games as punishment for minor rules violations related to impermissible contact with a recruit and off-campus workouts conducted during the COVID restrictions.

Coaches and players have spent a significant portion of preseason press conferences discussing the new offensive and defensive approaches for the Aggies. Offensively, the team will be much more guard oriented with a bevy of offensive threats joining the team. The pace of play will be much faster, and the Ags hope that three point shooting will improve. This much-anticipated shift represents a major leap forward into the modern style of play adopted by almost all NBA teams, hopefully advancing the Aggies’ recruiting efforts for top talent capable of playing at the next level. There hasn’t been much discussion on the changes defensively, but many fans would are assuming that a rotation of more athletic guards will allow the Aggie to be more aggressive on the perimeter.

Even without their head coach, the primary focal point for many fans will be the new talent that joined the program over the summer. Virginia Tech transfer Tyrece Radford will be a significant conntributor to this team, having scored 13 points in 35 minutes during the team’s exhibition against Texas A&M-Kingsville last week. Marcus Williams, the 2020-2021 Mountain West Freshman of the Year, is a dynamic scorer who can create his own perimeter shot and get into the paint. Williams transferred to Texas A&M from Wyoming.

Other newcomers will look to make their impact on the game tonight. Aaron Cash joined the Aggies from Grayson College in Denison, Texas and made a Coach Buzz Williams also announced that Duke transfer Henry Coleman will be available for the Ags tonight after being withheld from the exhibition with a minor injury. Fans will also be looking for heralded incoming freshman Manny Obaseki to make an impact on the game tonight. Seven foot UConn transfer Javonte Brown will anchor the Aggies on the interior.

Andre Gordon and Quenton Jackson highlight the four returning players who made significant contributions last season. Gordon will spend more time playing off the ball as a shooting guard this season after running the point for his first 2 seasons in Aggieland. Gordon is joined by Hassan Diarra, who looks to expand his role this season and increase his scoring. Diarra spent much of the prior season as a pass-first point guard.

It’s difficult to know what to expect from the team in terms of results. The aforementioned exhibition wasn’t televised, so many fans are left to draw conclusions from press conferences and YouTube highligh films for the incoming players. In a general sense, I expect this season to mirror the 2019-2020 campaign, in which the Aggies started slowly, encountered some struggles in the second half of the non-conference slate and the beginning of SEC play before surging to finish the year strong with an outside shot of being an NCAA tournament bubble team. The high degree of turnover in the roster means that it will take time for this team to operate as a unit. The challenge for Buzz and his staff will be keeping his players bought in and working together when they encounter those growing pains early.

A 20-win season isn’t off the table, but it will require this team to address their deficiencies in rebounding and perimeter shooting. My official prediction is an 18-13 record headed into the SEC tournament. My evaluation of a successful campaign for this group will hinge on both in-season results as well as the staff’s ability to retain talented players who demonstrate that they can make major contributions over the next 2 to 3 years.