Texas A&M Team Profile
Record: (24-10, 8-8 Big 12)
Key Wins: Oral Roberts, N-Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma
Key Losses: @ Texas Tech, Baylor, Nebraska, Oklahoma State,
Key Stat: 46.6. The team field-goal percentage this season — second best in the Big 12.
Biggest Strength: Size. Texas A&M head coach Mark Turegon knew he had a lot of work to do with the guards when he came on board this past year after Billy Gillispie bolted for bigger things at Kentucky. With Dominique Kirk trying to run the point for the first time, the biggest question was if the young guards had enough in the tank to take the Aggies where they needed to go. Amongst all of the early talk, you never heard anyone question the big men at A&M. And as it was earlier in the season, the big men are the catalyst that get A&M going every night.
Senior forward Joseph Jones is the motor of the A&M engine. At 6-9 he isn’t the biggest — or the strongest — guy on the court, but when it comes to having heart and intensity, Jones could be one of the biggest. Considered by most to be a poor man’s Zach Randolph, Jones averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds, while averaging 24 minutes of action this season.
Freshman DeAndre Jordan is considered by most to be the most highly touted prospect to come through Aggieland since Antoine Wright graced the Reed Arena floor a couple year’s ago. At 7 feet tall, Jordan is an intimidating figure in the post. While only a freshman, he averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds per game. His biggest problem was his lack of consistency during the season. While still being considered by most to be a top pick in the NBA Draft, Jordan is lacking in a number of departments — mainly strength and endurance — and would be best of spending another season in college before bolting for the NBA and their 82 game seasons. Bryan Davis (8.6 ppg and 4.9 rpg) and Chinemelu Elonu round out one of the best front four’s in the tournament.
Biggest Weaknesses: Inconsistency. The early half of the season was a dream for most A&M fans. A 70-47 blowout of Ohio State in the Preseason NIT and 15-1 record had everyone on cloud nine. But something happened after a January 12th win over Colorado when the team took the court four days later against Texas Tech. The once mighty defense looked atrocious, and the swagger coming out of College Station seemed to vanish before everyones eyes.
A&M has been one of the toughest teams to get a read on since the loss to Texas Tech. They beat Texas earlier in the year by 17, only to lose to them on the road by 25; they then did the same thing against Texas Tech, losing in Lubbock by 15, only to then turn around and beat them by 44 at home. What that equates to is a team that can’t seem to find their identity during some games.
You can blame it on the lack of a true point guard, or the fact that Mark Turgeon is still trying to implement his system at A&M. But whatever the main cause is, the Aggies haven’t been the same team they’ve been in year’s past.
Most Important Player: Josh Carter. Carter could be the key to the Aggie run. When he’s on his game from the outside he has the ability to change a game. He is currently shooting only 36 percent from three-point range— a number that most would consider to be fairly respectable — but when you hit 50 percent from three the previous season, that number doesn’t look so good. Carter currently leads the team in scoring at 11 points per game, but he’d be best off finding his circa 2007 stroke from outside if A&M wants any shot of advancing.
X-Factor: Dominique Kirk. If there’s any question about how valuable Dominique Kirk has been this season, just ask Mark Turgeon where the team would be without the senior guard. Turgeon has called Kirk the “glue” that keeps the team together. With the help of Joe Jones and Josh Carter, Kirk makes up the final piece of the Aggie nucleus that moved A&M from a laughing stock to a tournament contender.
After Acie Law IV graduated last season, the Aggies were left with the gaping hole to fill at point guard. In a move that shocked most, Dominique Kirk gave up his wing role and spent the entire summer learning to run Turgeon’s offense. It’s the type of move that makes Kirk the ultimate team player. He put the team before his own personal goals.
Just like his unselfish attitude, Kirk has the ability to blanket an opponent’s best player when he’s on the court. He also averaged almost 9 points a game and a team-high 3.5 assists.
Might Lose When…Beau Muhlbach isn’t on the floor. Unless you follow Aggie basketball as closely as I do, then you probably wouldn’t have any clue who Beau Mulbach is. The senior walk-on from Lufkin, Texas is this year’s version of Chris Walker (a walk-on at A&M who had an uncanny ability to do everything on the floor), in my opinion. After starting the season off on the bench, Muhlbach has started to make a name for himself in practice, and has since turned that practice intensity into regular season minutes. Since cracking the deep bench, the Aggies are 8-2 when Muhlbach plays more than 10 minutes. Now that number might sound a bit skewed considering a couple of those games were early season blowouts, but when you notice he played big roles in recent wins against Texas Tech, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor, the 8-2 record doesn’t seem that crazy. What makes the 6-5 senior so special is his ability to bring another level of intensity to the court.
Might Surprise You With…one of the least impressive records in college basketball. In a game earlier this year against Oklahoma, A&M set what is thought to be an NCAA record for the longest scoring drought since the advent of the shot clock in 1986, going 16 minutes and 12 seconds without a single point. They proceeded to score only 10 points in the first half, and 37 for the game.
Predicted Finish in the NCAA’s: Round of 32. A&M had the pieces in places to make a run in the tournament, but their inconsistency and affinity for not showing up in big games makes them a prime candidate for a second round exit.