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The Battalion

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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Baptism by fire: A&M to face toughest non-conference schedule in school history

Sophomore+G+Wade+Taylor+IV+%284%29+celebrates+after+shooting+a+basket+during+a+game+vs.+Vanderbilt+on+Saturday%2C+March+11%2C+2023+in+Bridgestone+Arena%2C+Nashville%2C+Tennessee.+%28Ishika+Samant%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Ishika Samant

Sophomore G Wade Taylor IV (4) celebrates after shooting a basket during a game vs. Vanderbilt on Saturday, March 11, 2023 in Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

When asked about the most difficult part of crafting this year’s Texas A&M men’s basketball non-conference schedule on his weekly radio show, coach Buzz Williams summed up the challenge with a bit of humor.
“Not resigning,” Williams said.
It is easy to understand William’s stress. In 13 non-conference games, the Aggies will face eight teams ranked in the top 100 of the preseason KenPom rankings. Of those five non-top 100 games, one is against an Oral Roberts team fresh off of an NCAA Tournament appearance as a 12 seed and another is the Big East’s DePaul Blue Demons.
“That’ll be the most difficult challenge a[n A&M] team has ever played, whether I’ve been employed here or not,” Williams said. “It’s easily the most difficult schedule I will have ever played.”
A&M will spend the majority of November and December away from the friendly confines of Reed Arena, only playing six non-conference games at home. Highlights from the road schedule include trips to Ohio State on Nov. 10, the ESPN Invitational in Orlando, Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday, Virginia on Nov. 29 as part of the ACC/SEC challenge and a game against No. 7 Houston at the Toyota Center on Dec. 16 and.
“It’s what I grew up wanting to do, but it’s all in one month,” Williams said of A&M’s November schedule. “I was thinking I’d do it across four or five years, and we’re trying to do it in four weeks.”
It’s not hard to connect the dots between this year’s early-season gauntlet and the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s treatment of A&M the past two years.
In 2022, the Aggies entered Selection Sunday on a 7-1 tear, with their only loss coming to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament championship game. Many fans thought A&M deserved a spot in the Big Dance based on its late-season form, but the committee disagreed, sending the Aggies to the NIT, where they would go 4-1 and lose to Xavier in the final.
Part of the committee’s rationale was assumed to be A&M’s non-conference slate, which ranked 308th in the country.
In response, Williams and the A&M staff scrambled to improve last season’s non-conference strength of schedule, adding games against SMU, Boise State and DePaul at the last minute over the offseason.
“In my career, I have always felt like the conference tournament would be a part of invitations, and we learned that it wasn’t,” Williams said on his weekly radio show after the Aggies’ win over DePaul last season. “We had our non-conference schedule done before the season was over, and after the NIT we went back and changed three games.”
Last season’s slate ended up as the 253rd-toughest non-conference test in the nation, according to KenPom.com. The Aggies did make the tournament — despite underperforming early in the year with losses to Murray State, Colorado and Wofford — thanks to their 15-3 record in regular season conference play.
That year, the Selection Committee handed A&M a seven seed — to the surprise and ire of much of the college basketball world.
But for those who supported the selection committee’s decision, A&M’s non-conference slate was once again to blame.
This year, A&M isn’t taking any chances.
“Let’s just take all of the guessing out,” Williams said. “Does it matter? Don’t know. We haven’t done it, so we’re going to try it.”

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About the Contributor
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter
Ian Curtis is a journalism freshman from College Station, Texas. Ian has written about football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, hockey, gymnastics, volleyball and more for The Battalion. Ian's work has also appeared in The Bryan-College Station Eagle and over the airwaves on WTAW and BCSball.com. 
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