Hop's Post-Texas Hoops Thoughts

Despite losing three straight Big 12 Conference games, the Texas Aggie basketball team is playing competitively losing to No. 5 Baylor 63-60 and dropping a heartbreaker on Monday to Texas. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a closer look at the team and the direction of the program.

My tune still hasn't changed with this team and this staff. In late December and into early January, this team was brain dead. The team defense was atrocious and the lack of movement and lack of any strategic purpose on offense made me wonder what the hell was going on with this coaching staff.

This team is playing better with a quicker tempo on offense. They are more effective in feeding David Loubeau in the post, and/or finding a shot for Turner...and in recent games even Naji Hibbert and Daniel Alexander are creating their shots. I'm not saying it's pretty or anywhere close to perfect, but given the limitations of the personnel especially at the point, I do see progress on several levels both on offense and defense.

Look, this is a lost season and it has been since the Iowa State blowout shortly after the Rice loss at home. So don't let the disappointment and emotion of losing to Texas cloud the facts here. I'm not one to make excuses to cover up deficiencies of the team and the staff. I call it like i see it, and after the Iowa State game I was suggesting that a change be made sooner rather than later...not because A&M lost the game, but it was the way they lost it and it was based on the lack of energy and lack of defensive effort.

But now the team continues to play better even as more and more pieces to the puzzle are taken away due to injury. Even senior Dash Harris was starting to play his best basketball of his career in mid-January, and I'm convinced that if he had continued to play at the level he played at in the first half of the Kansas game before he got hurt this team would have a couple more wins and in the middle of the Big 12 pack.

At the start of the season, the team had a rotation of Harris, Branch, Turner, Middleton, Green, Loubeau, Turner, Davis, and Roberson. Hibbert and Alexander were on the end of the bench. Hibbert specifically seemed like a lost cause who was given every opportunity over the past three seasons to establish himself as a productive guard. I'm not saying Hibbert doesn't have his limitations or tha he doesn't have brain farts from time-to-time, but I will tell you that his defense is 10x better than it was last year and his defensive IQ is significantly higher than it was the previous two seasons. He's starting to play with confidence under this staff, and he's even making some big shots and penetrating past the first level into the paint and dishing off for some nice assists. He had four assists to only two turnovers in 34 minutes. He has definitely improved.

Daniel Alexander's confidence has skyrocketed over the past month. His defensive IQ has improved significantly and he's had some very nice assists off of shot fakes in the last two games and I liked his turnaround fade away bucket Monday night.

Elston Turner keeps gaining confidence and improving as an all-around offensive go-to player, and despite his lack of foot speed I think his team defense has improved.

So most of the players are improving and developing under this staff. They are still playing with sufficient intensity and team defense is much better.

Loubeau has played better of late although Keith Davis and Ray Turner have been pretty inconsistent and stagnant this season. If you ask me, the biggest disappointment this season has been Jordan Green. His defense has been a weak point. When he's in the game, there will be multiple defensive breakdowns on his watch. On offense, he's just not a factor yet. He lacks confidence and is susceptible to the turnover.

So, as long as I see progress on the court, then I'll hang tight until I see what recruits this staff can sign in April. If they can bring in a satisfactory JUCO point guard and an athletic 6-foot-9 /6-foot-10 post with a nice vertical and wing span, then I can see the pieces in place to have a good team next season. If the staff struggles and signs some average JUCO prospects, then I'll be concerned. I know I've said that before, but it is worth repeating after a two-point loss to Texas. As long as this team holds the rope and plays tough and shows improvement, I'll give the staff a break until the spring signing week in April...win or lose here on out.

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