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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Commentary: Beware the madness of March

Junior+F+Julius+Marble+%2834%29+jumps+to+shoot+a+layup+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+game+against+Auburn+at+Reed+Arena+on+Tuesday%2C+Feb.+7%2C+2022.
Photo by Robert O’Brien

Junior F Julius Marble (34) jumps to shoot a layup during Texas A&M’s game against Auburn at Reed Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Thus far, Texas A&M men’s basketball 2022-23 season has had its fair share of highs and lows. The Aggies started their season struggling through their non-conference slate, losing to Wofford, Colorado, Murray State and Boise State. 

The maroon and white were in a tailspin as their schedule transitioned into conference play with an 8-5 record. Much like last year’s team, the Aggies responded to adversity with a strong run of play that has saved their season and put them on the precipice of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time under coach Buzz Williams. 

One of the main shifts has been A&M’s defense as they made a habit out of holding conference opponents to under 70 points. The Aggies used their defense, alongside timely offense, to currently hold second place in the SEC standings with a 10-2 record. 

During much of Williams’ tenure with the maroon and white, he dealt with incorporating transfers into his rotations. Last year, it was senior guard Tyrece Radford and junior forward Henry Coleman III. This season, Williams had to add graduate guard Dexter Dennis, junior forward Julius Marble and junior forward Andersson Garcia to the rotation. When healthy, freshman forward Solomon Washington also made his way into serious playing time just a year out of high school.

All of these new additions address last season’s shortcomings. For instance, the Aggies were a small basketball team last year and Marble added a post presence that wasn’t there previously. Garcia and Washington have also brought much-needed energy off the bench. Both players seem to play taller than their listed heights and are magnets for loose balls. Dennis replaced the high-flying void left by the graduation of guard Quenton Jackson. 

New additions coupled with continued development from returning players such as Radford and sophomore guard Wade Taylor IV have resulted in what looks like the best team Williams has coached at A&M. Taylor is up to 15.2 points per game after averaging 8 points last season, and Radford is averaging 13.6 points per game while showing the tendency to take over games.

One of the highlights of the Aggies’ recent run was their victory on the road against the Auburn Tigers. The win ended the Tigers’ 28-game winning streak at home.

However, there are still some questions surrounding the maroon and white. One would be how they would contend against tall teams. As good as Coleman and Marble are, they are still only listed at 6-foot-8 and the Aggies have struggled against conference opponents with true centers. Matchups against the senior centers Makhi and Makhel Mitchell from Arkansas and senior Kentucky center Oscar Tshiebwe each resulted in losses.

In the Razorbacks’ game, the Mitchell twins’ ability to protect the paint really hindered the maroon and white offense and was one of the main reasons they lost the game. An upcoming rematch against Arkansas on Wednesday, Feb. 15, will provide more answers in regard to this question.

Another problem for A&M has been inconsistencies on the offensive end. Take both Auburn games for example. In the first one, the Aggies won largely due to Radford’s herculean 30 points. A&M was dependent on Radford bailing out possessions by either drawing a foul or hitting a step-back 3-pointer. In the second matchup, the Aggies attempted 39 free throws to Auburn’s 14. The Tigers actually shot both a higher field goal and 3-point percentage, but the free throw differential aided in its defeat. Both games resulted in wins, but also didn’t require A&M to consistently execute on offense.

A&M is at its best when it is creating easy opportunities off of its defense. At their worst, the Aggies get stuck in isolation situations and start shooting inefficient perimeter jumpers. Sometimes these shots go in, but it’s difficult to win while being dependent on them. For A&M to go far in the SEC Tournament and eventually the NCAA Tournament, it will have to get better at creating offense in the half-court.

Luckily for the Aggies, upcoming matchups against the aforementioned Razorbacks, Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama Crimson Tide in front of the 12th Man will be a great litmus test as they prepare for March.

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