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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Aggies set to return to Reed Arena after month of postponements

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Photo by Courtesy of Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics
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Thirty-two days since its last outing against Kansas State, Texas A&M men’s basketball is expected to finally take the court on Wednesday, March 3 for an unprecedented senior night against Mississippi State. After facing a culmination of positive COVID-19 tests within the program and a winter storm that wreaked havoc on Texas, the Aggies had eight games postponed in February.
Sitting at 13th in the SEC with a record of 8-7, A&M coach Buzz Williams said the postponements also affected practices severely, and the team is currently out of shape emotionally, mentally and physically.
“Our guys have handled all of this with incredible maturity, despite it being the first time we’ve ever done it,” Williams said. “In the month of February, there were two positive [COVID-19 cases], and obviously the snow storm in between … March 1 was our first day back, and we were able to have everybody at practice … that was the first time since February 1.”
The last time A&M took the floor was against Kansas State, where the Aggies seemed to be turning the corner on their season’s performance, similar to the strong finish after a slow start for the Aggies in 2020. While A&M averages 15.4 turnovers per game and is second-to-last in the SEC with a 30.2 3-point field goal percentage, the team limited turnovers to nine and shot over 40 percent from three on the game.
A&M defeated Mississippi State earlier this season in a one-point game. Since then, Williams said Mississippi State has improved significantly while the Aggies have fallen behind due to the postponements.
“It was a good win, [and] we were pretty good in the second half at their place,” Williams said. “I’ve done a lot of scouting reports for games that we’ve yet to play. I’ve been able to go back and watch Mississippi State. If you look at their numbers from when we played them the first time and where they’re at in early March, they have really, really improved. They were 110th defensively in some of the numbers that you study when we played them, and they’re in the top 40 now.”
Many questions remain unanswered regarding exactly what to expect from the team that has missed so much time nearing the conclusion of a season that, in all of its abnormalities, will not count toward players’ NCAA eligibility. Williams said there is a moral victory in simply competing to the best of the Aggies’ ability on Wednesday.
“[It would be a victory to] do the best that we can,” Williams said. “Do the most that we can to help each kid relative to where they’re at and what they’ve been through emotionally, mentally and physically. And then collectively, as a team, can we play as hard as we possibly can? Can we play as together as we can? Can we play for one another?”
While the time away from the game was filled with as much preparation as possible, including running “one man, one hoop drills” with two players on the court at a time and three players on weight racks outside, the time has also reflected on what a team is.
“The thing that I’ve also learned in this is, yes you can’t practice, yes you can’t play, but in many respects, you’re isolated from your teammates,” Williams said. “Any time you’re in isolation, it doesn’t mean that any person has done anything wrong per se, it just means you’re not together. And that togetherness is part of the fabric of what it means to be on a team. And so when you’re trying to rush to get back to being a team on the floor, you realized you’ve missed that time off the floor.”
Handling the preparation with as much grace and compliance with COVID-19 rules as possible, Williams said the approach to the game and its unorthodox nature will likely translate into some mistakes on the floor.
“Will we mess up a play tomorrow? The answer is ‘for sure,’ prior to the first media timeout,” Williams said. “Will somebody forget a play? Yes. Will I call the wrong play relative to who’s in the game? Yes, because some of the groupings of who is going to be in the game, I don’t anticipate will have had many reps up until this point.”
After taking on Mississippi State for senior night in Reed Arena, the Aggies will travel to Fayetteville on Saturday, March 6 for their final game of the season in a make-up game against No. 12 Arkansas.
Knowing mistakes are likely and conditioning will strain the team, Williams said he has looked for, and found, the silver lining in simply having the ability to return his athletes to the court.
“There is optimism for our guys in a very simple way,” Williams said. “They’re excited just to play. That does not necessarily mean that we’re going to be aesthetically pleasing, but after what has transpired … I think there is some excitement in that regard.”

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