The Texas A&M Aggies have been the definition of overachiever under head coach Mark Turgeon. After getting chosen to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 last year, the Aggies went on to go 24-10 overall and 11-5 in the conference, ending up in a tie for second place overall. The Aggies did lose a tough one to Purdue 63-61 in overtime in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a loss that surely leaves a bad taste in Turgeon’s mouth. Many don’t know this, but A&M is one of only two squads to win at least one time in the NCAA Tournament for five consecutive seasons. The other is the Pittsburgh Panthers, so that’s quite a feat in itself. This team has proven they can overcome hardship, and they had a lot more of it this offseason. In May, top recruit Tobi Oyedeji died in a car accident. Then in July, the NCAA denied Derrick Roland an extra year of eligibility after getting hurt last December.
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Junior forward David Loubeau has made big strides in his first two seasons on campus. He showed potential in his first year, and really learned a nice back-to-the-basket game as a sophomore. If the Aggies can earn a sixth consecutive showing in the NCAA Tournament, Loubeau will be one of the biggest reasons as he’s relied upon to carry the bulk of the scoring load. Sophomore Ray Turner needs to make some improvements, and with his athleticism it’s a likely possibility. Turner’s power to play above the rim gives him the potential to be one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the league. If the Aggies are to be so strong inside again this season, they’ll need contributions from three true freshman in Kourtney Roberson, Keith Davis and Daniel Alexander.
Because Texas A&M is lacking depth in the frontcourt, they’ll likely go to small ball lineups lineups while playing a faster tempo. The Aggies have the tools to run this type of style, particularly with point guard Dash Harris running the show. He dished out a team-high 109 dimes last year, and if he can shoot better than his 37.4 mark from a year ago, he’ll keep opposing defenders honest. B.J. Holmes is the team’s top scorer back at 9.3 PPG, and he’s a sharp shooter who shot 36.6 percent from behind the 3-point line last season. Developing senior Nathan Walkup along with sophomores Khris Middleton and Naji Hibbert will be key to the Aggies year as well. Middleton has the athletic ability and length that has many comparing him to former Aggie great Josh Carter. Walkup has hit big outside shots in the past, but he slumped last year making just 26.5 percent from 3-point range.
Jack’s Pick: 8th Place in the Big 12 – If the sophomores on this roster can develop, Texas A&M will shock some people again in 2010-11. But I believe there are too many gaps to fill, and too many doubts surrounding the players coming back for Texas A&M to make a sixth consecutive trip to the Big Dance. An NIT appearance is most likely, but as Turgeon has shown in year’s past you can never count his teams out.
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