Puerto Rico is absolutely beautiful. Okay, I head to lead with the obvious there. Also, monfongo may be one of my favorite things now. I'm on the ground in San Juan for the ESPN Puerto Rico Tip-Off basketball tournament where the Aggies open up the tournament taking on the Dayton Flyers. Yes, this is the Dayton Flyers team you may remember from their incredible run in the NCAA Tournament last year. This re-tooled Aggie lineup will face an unusually tough litmus test very early this season. Coach Kennedy knows his team has some challenges ahead of them in this tournament:
"It’s a great field in Puerto Rico, and I think a lot of teams will find out a lot about themselves against the caliber of play. I mean, (having the) defending national champions says enough. It’ll be interesting to see who can score points in the tournament, because there are a lot of tough-minded, good defensive teams."
Aggie Hoops fans can expect to see a lot out of the young guys on the roster during the tournament, as well as transfer Jalen Jones who looks to be the early favorite to lead the team in scoring this season. Here's what to keep an eye on today against Dayton.
1. Alex Caruso, G, Texas A&M
Long travel and an early game time. Caruso is the guy that's going to hold the squad together this year, and his leadership on the court is going to be needed in a big way against a very good Dayton basketball team. I'd expect Caruso to come out very aggressive trying to set the tone for the game in the first 5 minutes. His scoring numbers may not get high in Puerto Rico, but his assists should stay among the best in the conference.
2. Darrell Davis, G, Dayton
Davis came off the bench in the last game for the Flyers and put up a quick 17 points, and he was 6 for 6 from the free throw line. Those numbers are absolute gold for any coach to have at the college level coming off the bench. The true freshman from Detroit could be ready to make a big splash here in Puerto Rico if he's able to keep that level of play. The Aggies want to establish their defensive identity while they are here on the island, and defending Davis is going to be a big part of that for Coach Kennedy and the Ags.
3. Big drop off in points
Between Dayton and Texas A&M, these teams don't like giving up a lot of points. Coach Archie Miller and the Flyers have a similar approach to defense as the Aggies. Force your opponents into bad shots late in the shot clock to create quick scoring opportunities on the other side of the court. Last season, the Flyers were 12-0 when giving up less than 60 points in a game. While the Aggies broke 100 points for the first time in seven years last week, the Flyers only scored 76 against Alabama A&M. I'd call it as the first to 70 wins today's game.
4. San Felipe del Morro Fort
Check this place out. I'm heading over here after the game today. Originally constructed in 1539 under order of King Charles V, the fortress was also used by American military forces during both World Wars to help prevent German naval forces from establishing a presence in the area. Plus, I've heard really good things about a bar that's a short walk across the street from here.
5. Game Information
9:30AM CT on ESPNU. Aggie Hoops with your eggs and bacon.