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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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Jay Bilas: A&M has a Top-25 team

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Jay Bilas

After watching the Texas A&M basketball team practice in mid October, 20-year ESPN analyst and former Duke star Jay Bilas said the Aggies have a Top-25 team.

Bilas, who played and coached under Mike Krzyzewksi at Duke University and has worked with ESPN since 1995, visited A&M’s campus in October to kick of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) first debate discussing paying collegiate athletes with NCAA executive Oliver Luck. Before the debate, Bilas attended an A&M basketball practice.

“I had a chance to watch them at practice today and will get to see them play in the Bahamas in that Atlantis tournament,” Bilas said after the debate. “I was very impressed. That [Jalen] Jones kid is so athletic and having Anthony Collins in there, to put [Alex] Caruso and Collins in there as two point guards to be able to play together — it will be a good ball handling team.”

With three of the team’s top contributors returning as seniors and four highly touted freshmen entering the picture, Bilas said the balance between youth and experience will generate a force in the SEC.

“They’ve got a good mix of older players and then some really talented younger players,” Bilas said. “I think they are going to have a really good year. I don’t know where they are going to be picked in the league, but if I had to venture to guess it’s not going to be any worse than the top four in the league — and that may be conservative. I think they’ve got a real chance.” 

Among the three seniors is shooting guard Danuel House, the 5-star transfer who led the Aggies with 14.8 points per game in his first season at A&M. Bilas said House has a future in the NBA, but incomer D.J. Hogg is who caught his attention.

“One kid that I really liked was D.J. Hogg — he can really shoot it,” Bilas said. “6-foot-8 and he’s going to get bigger and stronger. He’s got a real chance. He may be as good a prospect as they’ve got. And then Tyler Davis, I was really impressed with him.”

The Aggies finished sixth in the SEC last season, and every team in front of them made the NCAA Tournament. Bilas said missing the tourney when recording 11 conference wins is strange but justified given the level of competition in the SEC.

“There wasn’t value given to a lot of the league wins,” Bilas said. “If you don’t beat Kentucky, it’s almost like a punishment for not beating the top team when you have a team that’s that dominant. I don’t think the rest of the league did Texas A&M any favors. It’s hard to believe you can have 11 conference wins and not get into the tournament.”

The former four-year starter at Duke noted the competition the Aggies are presented with in the non-conference schedule offers them a chance to create national attention. He said when it comes to winning big games and building a resume for the NCAA Tournament, he knows head coach Billy Kennedy can produce.

“I think he’s a terrific coach,” Bilas said. “Having a few years to get going and all that stuff, it’s not as easy.”

Ahead for the Aggies is also a much more challenging conference, according to Bilas. He said almost everybody will be representative, and although players and coaches left, the players returning and coming in will create much tougher competition. 

“LSU will be very good; they have the number one player in the country, Ben Simmons,” Bilas said. “ [A&M] will be better, Vanderbilt will be way better, Ole Miss will be really good, Mississippi State will be way better. I think the talent level across the board is improved. Auburn will be better. I’m not sure whether Alabama will be better but they’ll be represented.”

Bilas will see the Aggies in person for the first time this season when he contributes his color commentary to the television broadcast throughout the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament starting Nov. 25. But for A&M, the season starts Friday against USC Upstate at Reed Arena.

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