It's just an exhibition game, but the curtain opens on the 2013-2014 season tonight when A&M hosts UT-Permian Basin. A few things I'll be looking for tonight and in the coming weeks:
1) The number of times Jamal Jones gets to the free throw line. In the scrimmage, he surprised me by being aggressive and going to the basket and drawing fouls...and he made all eight free throws. At Lee College, he was more of a spot-up shooter. Having an offensive player who can get to the foul line is a huge plus.
2) The quality of point guard play. There's no secret that the point guard position is the biggest question mark on this team. J-Mychal Reese must play with more confidence and cut down on his turnovers in the half-court offense. Fabyon Harris will be more of a point guard this season, and is he physical enough to handle a bigger load of the PG responsibilities if Reese struggles? A&M needs answers here.
3) The quality of post defense. That question won't be answered tonight since Kourtney Roberson will be out temporarily with his recent out-patient procedure. The Aggies will be undersized in the paint, and the ability to defend bigger SEC teams in the post will be a key this season. Keep an eye on freshmen Tavario Miller and Dylan Johns because the team will need significant contributions from these two to be successful over the course of a long season.
4) The quality of perimeter defense. This is one area where the Aggies should see vast improvement over last season. If this team will be better than last year's group, a major factor will be better perimeter defense. Redshirt freshman Shawn Smith is considered the squad's best man defender and will be used as the defensive stopper. Alex Caruso is a proven defensive entity. The key will be the defensive play of the wings jamal Jones and freshman Devante Fitzgerald. Both are long wings so there is concern whether they will have the quickness to contain opposing wings. The quickness concerns could be offset by the advantage in length...both in height but also wing span laterally.
5) Will this squad have team chemistry. On paper, this is a better team. It's a more athletic team. It's a longer team. There's more quality depth. Last year's group basically fed Elston Turner because he was a special scorer. So who will be the go-to guys on this team and how do the players and their abilities merge into a cohesive unit? Frankly, nobody knows until they group plays under fire. Look at Kentucky the past two years. They basically change out elite freshmen every year. Two years ago, the freshmen worked well together and the chemistry led to a national championship. An equally talented group of freshmen came into the Kentucky program last year and they lost to Texas A&M at home and missed the NCAA Tournament. Chemistry is key. Will the Aggies have team chemistry?
A&M Hoops Unveils New Team Tonight
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