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Aggie Basketball: A preseason roundtable discussion

With an influx of talent coming next season, Aggie Basketball starts the 2014-2015 season with a new spark of fan interest in the program.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For Aggie Hoops fans, it's that time of year when the dropping temperature can only mean one thing: SEC Basketball Fever is fast approaching. The GBH Hoops staff pulled up our chairs to the roundtable, poured another round of Fireball, and answered the burning questions for the upcoming season.

1. So are schools allowed to be good at both football and basketball at the same time?

gigthem08 - No. This myth is absolute folly, and searching for any exceptions is a fool's errand.

DerekAggie06 - Define "good". I think we've reached a point where athletic departments are going all in on one or the other. I would be in a permanent state of pee pants if A&M ever won titles in both in the same year.


2. Predict the top three scorers for this season.

JDMyatt - 1. Alex Caruso - The main reason. He did this:

Other reasons: Caruso made a tremendous leap from his freshman to sophomore season and there's little reason to believe he won't make another one this year. While Jamal Jones anchored the offense last year, Caruso was the engine that drove the ship. Now with more depth at the guard positions, Alex can open up on offense and be able to pick his spots on defense so he won't get in foul trouble anymore. All Aggie fans know if he gets consistent on his outside shot then he'll be an All-SEC player come march, and one must believe that was his #1 priority this summer. Add that with his bball IQ and driving ability, we could be in store for some special performances from the junior from B/CS.

2. Jalen Jones/Davonte Fitzgerald - This is a little bit of a cheat but I wanted to include both players because it could potentially be very entertaining watching this duo occupy the wings on offense. There are some question marks with the two. For Jones, it's been two years since he's played meaningful basketball and Fitzgerald will be returning from injury. But the two also possess the ability to take over a game at any moment. Both are tremendous athletes with great burst and can hit the spot-up three. Coach Kennedy may have Fitzgerald remain as the sixth man to be the spark plug on the second unit, but I think if you put these two with Caruso or Alex Robinson at the point, 12th Man Productions will get plenty of material for their highlight reels.

3. Kourtney Roberson - The second leading scorer comes back and continues to be the primary recipient of Alex Caruso and Alex Robinson assists.

gigthem08 - 1) Jalen Jones - SMU's leading scorer transferred to the good guys in 2013, and he's my leading candidate for the #1 scoring option. Like our prior J. Jones, he can score from anywhere and can impose his will on a game at any time. Unlike our prior J. Jones, he won't be asked to carry the load by himself for large stretches. It may take some time to knock the rust off his transfer season, but I think we'll see big things from Jalen come conference play.

2) Alex Caruso - Word leaking out of pre-season drills is that Caruso improved his outside shot in the offseason. When combined with his plus ability to get to the rim against man defense, his scoring numbers should improve noticably. Just check last year's insane stat line against Missouri (28 points; 7 rebounds; 7 assists) to get a sense for his ceiling should his range truly improve this season.

3) Davonte Fitzgerald - He was instant offense for the 2nd unit before last year's ACL injury, and like Jones he won't be asked to carry the load by himself. I think this leads to a more efficient, more well-rounded sophomore season for Fitz.

DerekAggie06 - 1. I'll go against the grain here and pick Davonte Fitzgerald to finish the season as the leading scorer. It could very likely be Jalen Jones, but Fitzgerald is a special type of player that could completely explode on to the national scene at any time. I'd expect his minutes to increase as the season moves long, and look for him to be topping the scoring column as conference play rolls around.

2. Okay this one is a little safer. Jalen Jones can score from anywhere on the court and he'll do his part to keep defenses honest this season. The issue for Jones is going to be how Kennedy and the staff can get him open without the ball. We know Jones can create for himself off the dribble, but opposing teams have more than enough tape on the Aggies to know you just have to shut down the main scoring threat. A big part of this is going to be the development of true freshman PG Alex Robinson. If the Aggies can keep Caruso and Jones moving without the ball, that's the perfect recipe for success as Jones knocks off the rust from sitting out a season.

3. Alex Caruso could easily fill any spot of the top three scorers this season. He has improved his game each year, and it's no secret that his jumper needed this biggest improvement this offseason. That's the one thing keeping Caruso from climbing up some draft boards at the next level. He's got two years to keep working on it, but we've seen flashes from Caruso and his ability to take over a game. I fully expect him to be more confident in his game this year, so we should see that more often. He's the best player on the team, we just needed the consistent scoring threat to be there.

3. Regardless of outcome this season, does yesterday's recruiting haul ensure another year for Billy Kennedy?

DerekAggie06 - I've been as critical of Kennedy's tenure in Aggieland as anyone could be. With that said, the 2015 recruiting class abso-freaking-lutely gets him another season. We've already had an article up about that class being the best in the history of the program. It's just completely on a different level talent wise from anything Aggie hoops fans have seen.

gigthem08 - Yes. Assuming we get to basketball NSD without any defects, Kennedy will have locked up a recruiting class that will have this team among the preseason 2015 SEC favorites.

JDMyatt - I truly believe this team could go 0-28 and Kennedy's job would be 100% secure; this recruiting class is that historic. Hopefully Kennedy will see this opportunity as playing with house money and pull out some surprises with this season's squad.

4. You can have one recruit from the 2015 class to be on this year's roster. Who do you take?

gigthem08 - Copout answer alert: I'd take none of them. Any one of the four could be gone in a year if they blow up, so I want them to come in at the same time and combine forces with Caruso ('15 Senior), Jones ('15 Senior) and a solid cast of role players that will have this program NCAA-bound for the first time since 2011.

JDMyatt - Tyler Davis. It's a complete mystery how Tonny Trocha will fare this season, and Antwan Space and Tavario Miller are only big enough to occupy the 4-position. That leaves Kourtney Roberson as the sole player at the 5. Davis, at 6-10, 270, would be a lane clogger and ramp up A&M's rebounding numbers that were so woeful last season.

DerekAggie06 - I'm so tempted to pick DJ Hogg here. I'm a huge fan of that kid and think he's got next-level potential in a very short time period. The most immediate need on the current roster is a big man down low that can both hold his ground against the bigger post players in the SEC, and still contribute on offense. That has to be either Tyler Davis or Elijah Thomas. We've already got Antwan Space that can stretch the paint at the 4, so I'll go with Elijah Thomas to be the Mack Truck down low for the Aggies.

5. Who's your choice for breakout player in the 2014-2015 season?

JDMyatt - I'll do something different, and I don't know if you can be a "breakout player" as a senior, but I'm going with Jordan Green. He's had a bit of an up and down career at A&M but became a vital team leader last season on and off the court. Green's always had the athleticism, can leap out of the building and the wingspan of a post player despite his 6-5 frame. The senior has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle of the Jalen Jones addition and the 2015 recruiting class, but he's never been afraid of the high pressure moments (see his game-winning three against Rice) and can provide a spark at any time with his defense or big-time dunks. I don't think he makes all conference or anything but I believe there'll be moments when the Ags will hit a rut during a game and Green will be right there to step up.

gigthem08 - Alex Robinson. We don't need him to be everything, we just need a competent ball handler that will allow Caruso to play off-ball and get our five strongest players on the floor. It's a lot to ask from a freshman, but all signs point to him being able to pull it off.

DerekAggie06 - Let's get weird with this one. Peyton Allen. The Aggies have needed their own Keiton Page for way too long. It felt like Page played at OSU for 7 years, and all he did was bury threes from all over the court. He wasn't a star in the college basketball world, but everyone knew you had to man up on the kid when he stepped on the court. Allen has that kind of touch, and it's exactly what the Aggies have needed for years. I think he'll see 15-18 minutes a game early in the season, and it's up to him to make the most of those chances to get steady looks in conference play.

6. The Aggies have beefed up their non-conference schedule this year. Is the risk of additional losses this season worth it?

DerekAggie06 - Absolutely. The Aggies play Dayton in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament in a week. If they win that game, they'll likely play UConn in the second round. In a matter of 24 hours, in the second week of the season, the Aggies could play one of the top mid-majors in the country, and one of the best programs in recent memory. You win those two games and you're on the radar for every national writer in the country. You lose them...well you learned about your team and you're not really any worse off than before the game started.

gigthem08 - Yes, it is. Legitimately exciting non-conference games (COUGH and football disaster COUGH COUGH) will grab the casual basketball fan's fall attention for the first time in the Kennedy era. We don't have to win all of these marquee games... we just have to win a couple. Do that, and we won't have to count on a hot conference start to build momentum.

I'm also excited to see the team tested in a non-Reed-Arena environment ahead of SEC play. Too often, we have seen our road record submarine any chances for the legitimate success, and I'm hoping that early exposure to hostile environments can fix that.

JDMyatt - Going back to the third question, Coach Kennedy has nothing to lose this year. That means this team can go out with no pressure and just let loose. Any win or postseason berth is all a bonus because all of the hype is set on next season.

7. What's the ceiling for this year's team? What about the floor?

gigthem08 - Ceiling: We are Georgia from 2013, where we beat everyone we should beat, upset one big name team, and win just about every coin-flip game en route to a #3 or #4 seed in the SEC tourney. We're talked about as a bubble team, and the big game crowds start peeking north of 10K.

Floor: A train wreck non-conference causes real concern among the stellar 2015 class, and transfers appear imminent. A handful of close losses in conference play doom the Ags to another year of CBI purgatory.

JDMyatt - Ceiling: The Ags beat Baylor. Everything else is just the cherry on top.

Floor: A&M loses to Baylor and the Bears go on to achieve the rare feat of being good at both basketball and football. I die.

DerekAggie06 - Ceiling: Let's go back to Puerto Rico for a second. The Aggies bring home the trophy and jump into the Top 25. They finish third in the SEC, get second in the SEC Tournament, and land a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Aggie fans embrace the pee pants thinking about having Caruson, Jones, House, and the 2015 recruiting class for the next season.

Floor: Ags go winless in Puerto Rico, finish in the bottom three of the SEC, basketball court is moved to indoor football practice facility to accommodate appropriate number of seats for fans.

8. Recruiting has everyone peeking over towards Reed Arena. What should I do if I fear I have contracted #SECBasketballFever?

JDMyatt - I've never contracted it so I'm not the right one to ask. You're on your own buddy. *Starts embroidering "Texas A&M March Madness" t-shirt*

gigthem08 - Watch highlights of the 2008 football game between Auburn and Mississippi State. A game that Auburn won 3-2. It is the only crossover event I've found that can adequately prepare one for the glory of SEC conference basketball games.

DerekAggie06 - Embrace the fever. Don't fight it. Remember how terrible the summer is while you're waiting for football season to start up? Grab some Rebecca Creek, enjoy watching almost every single Aggie Basketball game this season thanks to the SEC Network, and don't complain about an excuse to order pizza and watch Aggie sports on a weeknight. Disclaimer: I'm going to Puerto Rico for the tournament. I may be patient zero for the Aggie strain of SEC Basketball Fever.

9. Alright, what's your prediction for this season?

gigthem08 - 17-13 (10-8)

JDMyatt - 17-11, 9-9 in SEC play. NIT Berth!

DerekAggie06 - /glances at the pitcher of Kool-aid in the corner... 18-10, 10-8 in conference play, play-in game for The Dance.