After a 1-1 start to SEC play, Auburn hits the road to College Station, Texas to take on the Texas A&M Aggies on Wednesday evening. While the Aggies come into this game at 7-7 on the year, they just knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
To help us get better prepared for the Aggies, David Dold from Texas A&M’s Good Bull Hunting joins me today to answer some questions. I want to thank David for participating in this Q&A and I have also answered some questions for their site as well if you want to check that out. David’s answers are in bold below.
- This is clearly a different Texas A&M team from last year that saw the Aggies give Auburn it’s only home loss of the year. The frontcourt guys that gave Auburn fits in the game last year, Robert Williams and Tyler Davis, are no longer in College Station. In addition to those departures, plus the departure of D.J. Hogg, describe how difficult the transition has been from last year to this year.
“It has been an incredibly difficult transition. The three guys you mentioned were joined by outgoing seniors Duane Wilson and Tonny Trocha, and Admon Gilder’s lingering health issues kept him out for the year, as well. So in the end, we lost six guys from last year’s crunch time eight. To make matters worse, we had no incoming freshman signed this year, so we had to plug the holes solely with transfers. The incoming guys have done well enough, but our inability to plan for this situation is definitely the cause of some consternation in Aggieland.”
2. I feel like last year, Texas A&M had one of the most talented rosters in the SEC but didn’t really put the results together until playing at Auburn and then making a run to the Sweet 16 as a 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Is that a byproduct of coaching or what made those guys so successful on those particular occasions?
“Last season was the single most bizarre college basketball season I had ever seen. We smoked some really good teams, we started the SEC conference run 0-5, and the entire process was plagued with off court issues. Great for producing #content, but not so great for my mental health. In the end, I think our success came from our style running contra to the rest of D1 College Basketball. Everyone was moving towards a world with pace, space, and only one true big… and in that context we brought two NBA-ready sledgehammers that wanted to operate within five feet of the basket.
It was different, and it worked… especially when you only had a couple of days to prepare. I think we saw things fall apart when our off-court issues prevented us from playing at full strength, or when our opposition had ample time to scout us. We saw this play out in earnest when we killed UNC (who only had one day to prepare) in the 2nd round, but were then fully out schemed a week later against Michigan in the Sweet 16. The Billy Kennedy experience giveth, and it taketh away.”
3. If people were to look at the Aggies record so far this year, they would see 7-7 and probably think that Texas A&M isn’t very good. However, they played a tough non-conference schedule including the likes of at Gonzaga, Washington, Minnesota and an improving Oregon State team. How has the experience in those games helped the Aggies get ready for SEC play?
“The Gonzaga game was sobering, because those guys were just a cut above. I don’t know what sport they were playing, but it didn’t feel too similar to the one we were playing. Aside from that game, though, we really haven’t been blown off the court. We were in the Washington and Minnesota games late, and our win over OSU (Oregon State) in Portland was huge for our morale after a rough start. The unforgivable pieces of this season lie against UC Irvine and Texas Southern. Both possible “small conference” NCAA teams, sure… but you can’t lose to teams like that at home if you’re trying to build a postseason resume.”
4. T.J. Starks has taken on a much bigger role on this team and he had a career high 23 points against Auburn last year. If you could, describe how Starks has evolved this year and how he has emerged as one of the team’s leaders.
“Starks had a rocky start this year, to say the least, but he has come around in the last few weeks. Among other things, he has finally learned to trust his teammates in big moments. I think that’s something you have to deal with when a Sophomore finds himself among the “elder statesman” after a exodus like we saw this offseason. He’s still a shoot-first point guard, but that’s just something we’ll have to live with given our current roster. We aren’t exactly loaded with creativity this season, so if he wants to express himself through the majesty of 17 FG attempts, we gotta let him do his thing.”
5. The Aggies beat Alabama on Saturday on Starks 3-pointer, which he banked at the buzzer. For those who haven’t seen it, here it is...
How does a game winning of that magnitude to win an SEC road game help the Aggies confidence going forward, especially after also playing Kentucky tough earlier in the week?
“Honestly, it was huge. The fanbase was really unhappy after the Texas Southern loss, and the Arkansas loss (which is precisely the kind of game we need to win at home this season) didn’t exactly help matters. This week, where we responded with a week of really positive basketball as we head into a stretch of 5 / 6 home games… it was sorely needed.”
6. Who is a player on A&M’s roster that Auburn fans should be aware of that tends to fly under the radar?
“Savion Flagg is the kind of guy who doesn’t seem to do too much, yet he’ll end the game with 35+ minutes played, 15 points, and 7 boards. He’s the consummate glue guy, and his development into a legitimate SEC wing has been a big part of our spotty success. Keep an eye out for big man Josh Nebo, too. His ‘per-minute’ metrics are off the charts, and he played extremely well at Alabama when he received extended minutes due to foul trouble.”
7. Auburn has struggled on the road so far this year and A&M has a bunch of confidence coming home to play a ranked opponent. How do you see this game playing out? Do you have a score prediction?
“First, I’m glad this squad isn’t heading up to Auburn.
When you guys get rolling in that gym, things tend to fall apart for your opponents rather quickly. But I must admit that I’m a little surprised things haven’t really held firm away from home. You’re deep, you can shoot, and your defensive metrics are outstanding… and those things tend to travel well.
I’m not sure why it doesn’t work for you in true road games, but that’s basically the only thing I’m holding on to heading into Wednesday night. I do think it will be closer than some expect, but you’ll ultimately be too much down the stretch. Put me down for Auburn 71, Texas A&M 63.”