#13 Texas A&M Men's Basketball Preview

Texas A&M Aggies

Overall Rank: #13
Conference Rank: #2 Big 12
Texas A&M Men's College Basketball Logo
Texas A&M Team Page

2010-11: 24-9, 10-6
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Billy Kennedy (First year at Texas A&M, 211-179 overall)

Texas A&M is going through an odd coaching change. Mark Turgeon split for Maryland and the Aggies hired Coach Billy Kennedy. Unfortunately, Coach Kennedy has missed some early practice with his team after taking some time off due to an undisclosed medical condition. The good news is things are transitioning pretty smoothly thanks to seniors Dash Harris and David Loubeau. Harris, a 6-1 point guard, is a very steady ball handler and orchestrates the Aggies on both ends of the floor. He is not much of a scorer, but he does not need to be either. A little more consistency on his outside shot would open up the defense a little bit more and that is about all Harris needs to improve upon. Loubeau is not a flashy player either, but he is certainly productive. The forward averaged 11.8 points and 5.0 rebounds last season and should be ready to take the next step after finishing the 2010-2011 campaign on a high note.

Who’s Out:
However, both Loubeau and Harris will miss their mates in the frontcourt and backcourt, respectively. In the paint Nathan Walkup was a strong rebounder who could also stretch out the defense by stepping outside and knocking down the long ball. Harris may have a few problems without B.J. Holmes by his side. Holmes could handle the ball and help take the pressure off of Harris in that regard. Holmes was also the most prolific and efficient outside shooter on the team and ended his collegiate career averaging 9.7 points, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals. Andrew Darko and Derrick Lewis are also gone after seeing limited playing time during the 2010-2011 campaign.

Who’s In:
The newcomers will help out this group a lot. Jamal Branch is the best of the incoming freshmen. The point guard should immediately be a force on the defensive end, but he could also emerge as a fine scoring threat and earn plenty of minutes at the shooting guard position. He could be the secondary ball handler that Holmes was last season. Fellow incoming freshmen Jordan Green and Grant Jolly will have to battle for minutes. Green, a 6-4 guard, is a superb shooter and could provide a nice offensive spark off of the bench. Redshirt freshman Daniel Alexander is a bigger version of Walkup. He can bang around in the paint and step outside and knock down the outside shot. It remains to be seen how effective he can be as a freshman, but he will get the opportunity. A couple of transfers will provide even more experience to an already experienced squad. Elston Turner was known as a shooting wing during his time at Washington, but he can be more than just a shooter. Zach Kinsley heads to College Station from New Orleans and is another wing who can shoot the ball.

Who to Watch:
With plenty of options on the perimeter and the frontcourt, it will be interesting to see where Khris Middleton ends up playing most of his minutes. At 6-7 and 210 pounds, Texas A&M can play small and put Middleton at the four spot. That would likely give the Aggies a couple players on the floor who can handle the ball and an extra shooter. Or Coach Kennedy could put his talented forward at his more natural wing spot and have a big lineup. Either way, Middleton will be on the floor a lot. As a sophomore last season he averaged a team high 14.4 points and added 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals. Middleton will again be the Aggies best option in clutch situations and he has proven that he can handle that role.

Final Projection:
Naji Hibbert has a ton of potential and was a great player for Texas A&M off of the bench during his sophomore season. He is ready to step into a starting role, but players like Turner may keep him as the team’s sixth man. The frontcourt has a trio of role-players who hope to force Coach Kennedy to play big more often than not. Kourtney Roberson and Ray Turner were both very productive despite limited playing time. Roberson was just a freshman last year and averaged 5.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game. It may be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup due his ability to bang in the paint and fight for rebounds. Center Keith Davis even showed some potential as a freshman and this could turn into a very deep frontcourt. Coach Kennedy has to sort out the starting lineup, but who starts is not important. More importantly, Texas A&M has options this year and quite a few players who will be able to contribute at a high level no matter how many minutes or at which position they play.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Dash Harris, Senior, Guard, 4.2 points per game
Naji Hibbert, Junior, Guard, 5.2 points per game
Elston Turner, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Khris Middleton, Junior, Forward, 14.4 points per game
David Loubeau, Senior, Forward, 11.8 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#31 Khris Middleton
#71 David Loubeau

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#52 Jamal Branch
#108 Jordan Green

Check out another story about Texas A&M basketball