Show Me My Opponent: Texas A&M

Writing about Texas A&M basketball as a 2019-20 entity is not very exciting, guys. I’ll be honest! You like honesty! Writing about Texas A&M basketball from a historical perspective, however, gets me a little more interested. You can somewhat neatly break down Texas A&M’s last 40ish years of basketball into three distinct parts:

  • Wilderness. From 1981 to 2005, Texas A&M made the NCAA Tournament oncewhich is…kind of wild to think about. In fact, from 1987 to 2005, they finished above .500 in conference play just once, in 1993-94. Shelby Metcalf, Kermit Davis, Tony Barone, and Melvin Watkins combined for one 12 seed appearance and zero conference titles.
  • Success. Then they made the NCAA Tournament six years in a row under two different coaches: Billy Clyde Gillispie (peaked with a 3 seed and a Sweet Sixteen run in 2006-07) and Mark Turgeon (5 seed, Round of 32 three times). For a very brief, specific six-year run in history, you could very reasonably say Texas A&M was one of the 20-25 best programs in college basketball.
  • Wilderness and Success and also Wilderness again. After Turgeon came Billy Kennedy, and with Kennedy’s second season came SEC basketball. Over an unexpectedly slow five-year rise, A&M went from the dungeon of the Big 12 to being a legitimate top two SEC team in 2015-16 alongside Kentucky. They’d get a 3 seed, complete maybe the most insane comeback in college basketball history in the Round of 32, then get demolished by eventual champion Villanova in the Sweet Sixteen. Two years later, they’d make another run at the Sweet Sixteen in one of the strangest seasons ever: an 11-1 start shot them to #5 in America, followed by a 2-7 stretch, followed by a 9-3 run that completed itself with a 21-point blowout of 2-seed North Carolina. After a disappointing 2018-19, Billy Kennedy got fired. They hired Buzz Williams…

…and here we are. Texas A&M enters this game just barely above the KenPom national average, which is to say that they’re better than Vanderbilt but no one else. They’ve managed a road win at Mizzou (mildly impressive?) and home wins over other sub-KP #100 teams Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, but that’s it. In one of the more astounding accomplishments of the season, they managed to go 0-3 in a Thanksgiving weekend tournament where they played Harvard (lost 62-51), Temple (65-42), and Fairfield (67-62). They barely hit a quarter of their threes. They could’ve lost to UL-Monroe (won 63-57, trailed for 19 minutes), Troy (56-52, 33 minutes), Texas A&M Corpus Christi (63-60, 20 minutes), and Texas Southern (58-55, never led by more than eight).

Torvik’s average lead/deficit, which is exactly what it sounds like, says that Texas A&M has, on average, been the team trailing in 14 of their 18 games. Their point differential is more suggestive of a 6-12 or 7-11 team. They’re already bad, but Buzz Williams’ first A&M team really should be staring down this Tennessee game with additional losses to Troy and Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Think about that: these Aggies are lucky to be 9-9. It always, always, always could be worse.

NEXT PAGE: Thank you, Kobe.

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