To be honest, I'm running out of self-depricating road game intros. Which is bad, because I fear I might need a few more this season.
But let's back up real quick and look at the big picture. This season is not "NCAA's or bust." Sure, the NCAA's would be amazing... but they aren't the baseline. Not this year. This year's baseline is the NIT. This year's baseline is a show of steady progression, capped by an appearance in a meaningful postseason tournament. The type of steady progression that could get Aggie Hoops fans excited about a combination of our insane 2015-2016 recruiting class with senior leadership (Caruso / House / Jones) and a relatively manageable loss to graduation (Roberson / Green).
That's the baseline. Improve, attack, build. That's what we need this year.
But the 2015 SEC schedule is tricky. Last year, we were gifted a pretty sweet home slate and a rather rough go of things on the road, This allowed us to batten down the hatches at Reed and skate through our friendly home part of the schedule, while taking our ritualistic road beatings en route to a laughable 1-13 result away from home. But it didn't matter. We were still 8-10 in conference and somewhat passable as a basketball squad.
This year, we can't do that.
We have tougher home games and some slightly easier, slightly more winnable road games. If we want to accomplish any of our goals this year, we have to improve these crap efforts on the road. Especially against fellow squads competing for the NIT (like Alabama). We have to. If we don't, we'll end up with zero NIT games and four talented High School kids with second thoughts about this program.
It has to get better.
Official from @AdamQ_TAMU: A&M guard/forward Jalen Jones, Ags' leading scorer, will not play at Alabama w/ sprained ankle. Day to day.— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) January 7, 2015
The Aggies' leading scorer was scratched an hour prior to game time due to a lingering ankle injury. This was bad, bad news. Jones is our only surefire offensive threat down low, and he and House have carried us through stretches in the past when the squad had bogged down offensively.
Just like that, the Aggies were doomed to sixteen minutes of first half basketball without their top two scorers.
Sure, this thing got away late... but it could have happened much, much earlier. The Aggie offense responded predictably to its' personnel losses (i.e., terribly) and things started to look pretty dire. I wish I could say our defense kept us in the game, but Alabama routinely got GREAT looks from downtown. We're talking feet set, nobody within a mile, "we're playing horse" type open. They just couldn't hit anything.
The good guys hung around via just enough offense, and an Alex Robinson
questionable totally legitimate buzzer beater trimmed the lead to three. I don't know how it counted, but it did.
Immediate three from House! Perfect. Tie ball game. How did this happen.— gigthem08 (@gigthem08) January 7, 2015
Tie game! Excitement! Legitimate possibility to compete on the road?
For a fleeting, wonderful moment, it seemed possible. Bama responded with a 7-0 run, but Alex Caruso and Peyton Allen hit back to back threes to keep the Tide in reach.
And then a 17-3 run happened.
Wait, that doesn't really do it justice. That sentence makes it sound like Alabama accidentally found a backbreaking run under the rug. That's not the case. How can I describe this....
That run was a systemic, calculated exposure of everything that last night's Aggie team couldn't do. The basketball equivalent of a gaggle of mean sorority girls laughing at someone while simultaneously standing in a soft zone and daring that person to shoot threes. It's an imperfect analogy, but whatever.
House went ice cold, Peyton Allen was removed for having the audacity to score shootypoints, and Roberson/Space missed a series of good looks inside. Things continued to spiral out of control, culminating in a hellacious alley off the glass to team leader and captain Levi Rudolph, which pushed the lead to 23.
The benches played out the string, and that was that.
This is frustrating.
I'll still be there against Kentucky this Saturday, and you should be too... but attendance does not imply happiness with current developments.
Every conference is made up 30-40% of teams that can hold their own at home but can't really take a big scalp on the road. Those programs are a dime a dozen. Right now, that's who we are. I still think this team has more talent than that, but I (and everybody else) have effectively been put in a "show me" state until further notice. As things currently stand, I have no choice but to assume we're in for another season of the same old ish.