Hop's Musings and Scattershooting
1) Well, what we do know about this Aggie basketball team is that they don't discriminate against any one half of play. In games against Alabama and LSU over the past couple of weeks, the Aggies raced out to large first half leads, only to see those leads evaporate in the second half of eventual losses. On Wednesday in Starkville, Texas A&M decided to start slowly falling behind by 12 points in the first half and scoring a measly 17 points.
With 18 minutes to go in the game, the Ags looked dead in the water at 31-17. They were on pace to score only 31 points, much less overcome a 14 point deficit. But then the boys in maroon woke up and did so with an aggressive, pressing defense that saw Coach Kennedy go to a four-guard line-up at times…and it worked. With the score at 32-24 midway through the second stanza, A&M's pressure produced three straight steals that led to a pair of easy layups and a three-point play by Alex Caruso to bring the Aggies within 32-31…game on. The Aggies actually took the lead late 47-44 with several opportunities to stretch it but were unsuccessful. Then, with six seconds left, MSU hit a desperation 3-pointer on the bank shot to tie it. Shocked and stunned, the Ags go to overtime where they have every opportunity to lay down.
In fact, MSU gets the first bucket in overtime and it's looking shaky, but the struggling J-Myke Reese hit a critical floater to get the Ags on the board after going scoreless for the first two minutes of OT. He added another big basket and then closed the game out with a pair of free throws. Kourtney Roberson owned the paint creating six steals to go along with his 12 rebounds and eight points.
Look, I know it was Mississippi State and they are bad. I know A&M committed 22 turnovers and had only nine assists. During regulation, the team shot ONE free throw. But there is another side. This team was given every opportunity to fold and give up, and they played extremely hard and they played some great defense causing 24 turnovers…many of those were forced by the Ags in that critical stretch where A&M outscored MSU 14-1. Nobody is going to mistake these guys for a good team, but again the goal should be to show enough life and energy to persuade another 2-3 recruits to join in the fun.
They needed this win because Kentucky will come into Reed on Saturday playing much better and with a statement to make after A&M's shocking win three weeks ago. Still, this team has at least four very winnable games where they will be favored…LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, @Auburn and two toss-up games @Vanderbilt and @Georgia. If they can win four of those six, and then win one from UK, Missouri, @Arkansas, Ole Miss, @Ole Miss. Missouri is struggling on the road. That may go into the toss-up column. Still, my scenario has A&M at 8-10 and 18-13 overall which will put them on the NIT bubble. IF they can find a way to steal another one of the toss-ups or underdog games, that should cement a spot in the NIT….and frankly, that would be a huge accomplishment given what we've seen so far.
2) Both Torrodney Prevot and Daeshon Hall are planning to make a signing day announcements regarding their final school of choice. Prevot was supposed to visit Notre Dame this weekend but that trip has been cancelled. Checking in with the USC Scout folks, they feel pessimistic that the Alief Taylor DE will stick with them on signing day. That leaves A&M and Oregon, and the Ducks will always be a mystery if you know what I mean. Still, I'm hearing too much buzz, and there's too much going A&M's way in terms of Prevot's teammate and several Houston-area friends going to A&M and the momentum building in the program. I think he signs with the Aggies.
Hall is a different matter. I feel like I'm watching the lead up to the 2012 Presidential Election where Dick Morris and Karl Rove were predicting a GOP win, while James Carville was calling for an Obama sweep. Even after the latest in-house visit this week, the coaches still feel very confident they will land the 6-foot-6 four-star defensive end and they are optimistic that his LOI to come through the fax at the Bright Complex. If you talk to third party people like Erin Hartigan who is in contact with the Hall family, she says the DE prospect is still very much confused and torn up about his decision. Even the Lancaster coaches weighed-in last weekend telling Hartigan they felt Hall would stick with his UW commit if Prevot committed to A&M.
Well, if you believe that from the Lancaster coaches, then there will be a lot of waiting around on Signing Day as both prospects recently stated they will announce next Wednesday. It should make for one of the most interesting signing days in recent memory.
3) It appears now that Derrick Griffin may not sign with Texas A&M as we've been assuming all along. That tells me the staff is expecting to keep all of their commitments while confident they will land two more recruits in the next six days (Prevot, Hall). I mentioned Dontre Wilson as an outside possibility of being a late visitor, but it sounds like he's leaning to Ohio State if he leaves Oregon, and will be in Austin for a last minute visit with Mack. So A&M is out. Mackenzie Alexander, Levonte Whitfield, and some of the other out-of-state prospects A&M was flirting with in recent weeks appear to be looking elsewhere. Isaac Savaiinaea is really the only other prospect prominently listing A&M, but as you know A&M stopped pressing "Savage" after he delayed his announcement at the UnderArmour game and the Aggies gave Jordan Mastrogiovanni the green light to commit. I think UCLA is the logical choice here, but Savage still says he's undecided. A&M is still in communication, but as noted earlier, A&M went all the way to Hawaii to conduct and in-home with commit Jeremy Tabuyo, but didn't bother stopping by to see the four-star linebacker.
4) The coaches are making the rounds to make sure all is well with the 2013 commits. Just today, Coach Sumlin and Coach McKinney were at Sealy to visit prized recruit Ricky Seals-Jones. He posted a pic on twitter with his arms around both coaches. Of course, I was wondering if his t-shirt with a close-up of a hand holding a hand grenade was within the school district's student dress policy. :-) He's solid.
The biggest storyline for committed players looking elsewhere is Kenny Hill who could be making his final decision as I'm typing this muse. He's supposed to publicly announce whether he's staying with his commit to A&M or whether he will switch to Baylor or Kansas State. A&M feels good about keeping him after a fruitful official visit and in-home follow-up, but I must say that he's taking his sweet time when I thought he would've quickly re-affirmed his commit after leaving College Station. The problem for Hill is the uncertainty at both Texas A&M and now Baylor. The issue with Hill's uncertainty with A&M has been Johnny Manziel and how long he plans to stay in College Station. With Manziel being a junior academically and talk about him possibly going pro after next year has helped A&M's cause with Hill. On the other side, what is Hill supposed to think when he hears the rumors that Jameill Showers is strongly considering a transfer to Baylor where he will have two years of eligibility left. In the end, he'll stick with A&M because he's been assured that the odds of competing for the starting position in 2014 are high.
5) Joas Aguilar started listening to TCU coaches telling him that he would get lost in the shuffle with the influx of talent at A&M. TCU also gave him a close-to-home option to consider, but it sounds like Coach Sumlin's in-home visit earlier this week has him feeling better about his A&M commit. As of tonight, he was not planning to visit TCU. I'd watch this one closely. The close-to-home option can throw a wrench into things this late in the process when a high school kid gets a little cold feet. Still, the A&M staff firmed him up as of now.
6) I've seen the lord's name used in justifying a lot of behaviors through the years, but not for stiffing a waitress on a tip. Alois Bell, a pastor at a local church, was eating with a large party at Applebee's in St. Louis. As is the case at most restaurants, parties over eight are charged an automatic tip….in this case 18%. The waitress, Chelsea Welch said there were no incidents during the meal and in fact was complimented during the meal for her service. When she picked up Ms. Bell's credit card ticket, Bell had scratched out the 18% tip and wrote, "I give God 10%. Why do you get 18%." Well, isn't that special. Well, the waitress later posted a picture of the receipt on her social media page and it went viral a couple of days ago.
Ms. Bell saw the picture and complained to Welch's manager saying her privacy was violated, "I didn't know my signature would be all over Yahoo. My heart is really broken," Bell added. "I've brought embarrassment to my church and ministry."
7) There's been a lot of questions surrounding Kohl Stewart and whether he will attend Texas A&M or go the pro baseball route. It's looking like he will sign with the Aggies next week, and there's a very good chance he will show up in Aggieland next year playing both football and baseball. I'm not going to get into a lot of details, but it appears that Stewart may be limited this spring in baseball due to a nagging injury and baseball people are telling me that will likely affect his draft stock this summer…enough to send him to college.
8) It's official. You can all rest easy after today's announcement that the Board of Regents gave President Loftin the authority to renegotiate and sign a contract extension for Coach Kevin Sumlin and his assistants. Everybody will be getting raises, with most assistants getting a 25-40% bump in pay. As far as Sumlin, I'm hearing his new contract extension will pay him an average of around $3 million a year with bonuses that can get him to $3.5 million throughout the contract. Of course, the average doesn't really matter because if Sumlin continues to win, he'll be making a lot more money with more renegotiated extensions.
Guy, as I've been telling you the cost of poker for coaches across the board will be going up in parallel with these new TV contracts. The fact is simple. A school's brand and facilities are no longer significant differentiators in program success. The fact is, every major program has good facilities and a nice stadium. The days of a powerhouse program promoting a long-time nameless assistant coach to steer a ship already humming at 11-12 wins a season are over. It's all about the head coach. Get a good one, and you better pay him whatever it takes to keep him. If you are a big-time, elite program that has hit a bumpy road for a couple of years, then you are desperate to throw money at the best coach in America to solve the problem immediately. The result…skyrocketing salaries. I'm talking about an $8 million coach in the near future, and I wouldn't rule out a $10 million coach at some point soon. When winning is worth $30-40 million to the bottom line, an AD is willing to pay $10 million…and more.
9) I always say beware of "studies" you hear in the news. Studies are a way to promote a business interest or political action interest. But when I read the headlines the other day that a study claimed that 31% of people over the age of 50 are sexting, I had to look deeper for some strange reason. After all, I know Whitemule hasn't hit the big 50. Yeah, I'm sure that Betty White and friends are sexting every night while digesting the 5:00 PM dinner buffet at Ryan's Steakhouse. So I look, and the survey was actually conducted by a dating site called benaughty.com. Oh, so now I know the study is pure and the sample survey is certainly representative of our general population….roll eyes. I'm waiting on the survey that tells me a Bacon Explosion actually clears out my arteries and decreases body fat by 50% – courtesy of the American Piggly Wiggly Association.
10) Dylan Sumner-Gardner, the No. 1 2014 safety on Texas A&M's board is telling people close to him that he's leaning heavily to the Aggies and will pull the trigger once he decommits from Clemson and goes with his teammates to junior days at Baylor and Texas in the next couple of weeks. Well, he decommitted from Clemson tonight, so that's part one. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him committed to A&M by the end of February. Others to keep an eye on include North Shore LB Zach Whitley who is leaning heavily to A&M but will also take a couple of junior day visits in February. But I could see him pulling the trigger shortly afterward, possibly in March. Myles Garrett is another one to watch after a few junior day visits. A&M did a great job recruiting the top 2014 DE in Texas. I also think he's one of the most important recruits still on the board. You can't have enough elite pass rushers, and he's the only 2014 elite rusher in the state so far. With A&M already loaded at linebacker and defensive back in 2014, one of the few missing pieces is DL.
11) *** Special Bonus #11*** Billy Clyde is Coming to Town…..That's right. Billy Kennedy is looking to get the old mojo back and invited Sir Billy Cyde Gillispie to Saturday's game. But if the truth be known, BCG had been invited by his good friend Billy Kennedy much earlier in the season, but you know he wouldn't show up unless there was some built-in drama. It's so BCG to decide to show up to the A&M-UK game. That man came along at the perfect time for A&M…and A&M came along at the perfect time for BCG. He inherited a very talented, but under-performing group that was so hungry to win that they put up with the grueling workouts and the constant berating. I have no idea if BCG will ever be a successful college coach. He's burned out and he has demons. That's sad because when he was on top of his game, he turned water into wine….he turned a pathetic A&M basketball program into a Top 5 team. But as quickly as he showed up and turned it around, he was gone and floundering in the microscope of Lexington. I knew the minute he took that job that it would end in a train wreck. BCG is a strange cat…a cat that walks to a different drummer and who would certainly crumble under the scrutiny…and that's exactly what happened. But we had those three years Billy. We had Jacksonville. We Had Lexington. We had San Antonio. We had a winner and we loved the way he won.
Hop's Musings and Scattershooting
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