Aggies begin brutal four-game stretch

The Aggies begin a tough four-game stretch tonight against the Washington Huskies and their big man John Brockman. Will the Aggies be up to the task? Aggie Websider has the latest from A&M head coach Mark Turgeon as the Aggies travel to New York City for the NIT Season Tip-Off semi-finals.

The Texas A&M basketball team begins an incredibly challenging four-game stretch tonight at Madison Square Garden against a Washington team that may be the toughest four-game stretch that any team in the country will face.

The Aggies will face Washington, Ohio State/Syracuse, Alabama and Arizona in consecutive games over the course of the next two weeks, and all four games will be nationally televised.

"I always kid that Billy (Gillispie) knew he was leaving because he knew the schedule, but that line is getting old," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon at Monday's weekly media luncheon.

But with the recent success the program has had comes a tougher schedule, and with that comes exposure, and that's something that has Turgeon excited.

"We're going to get a lot of exposure all year because of what we've done in the past, but this is big because we need to get better," he said. "Given the competition and the stage we're going to be on, our concentration level will be higher, so as a coach, I'm excited about getting better over the next five days."

The Aggies will begin the stretch against a Washington team that was a No. 1 seed in the 2005 NCAA Tournament and went to the Sweet 16 in 2005 and 2006.

They're picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10 Conference this year, but Turgeon isn't convinced.

"I think Washington is a little underrated. They should be ranked higher," Turgeon said. "I think they will be near the top (of the Pac-10) by the time it's over."

The Huskies seem to live and die with 6-foot-7 junior forward John Brockman, who is averaging 23 points and 11.7 rebounds per game through the first three games of the season.

Brockman set career highs with 31 points and 18 rebounds in the Huskies' second round NIT Season Tip-Off win against Utah last week. He abused the Utah defenders all night, including 7-foot-1 center Luke Nevill, who fouled out with 4:39 remaining in the game, after picking up a bogus fourth foul on a Karl Malone-like flop by Brockman with just over eight minutes to play.

But unlike the Utes, the Aggies will throw an extremely deep front court at him and try to get him in a bit of foul trouble himself.

"Brockman is pretty special, but we're going to throw a lot of bodies at him," Turgeon said. "We'll use DeAndre (Jordan) at first and then use some other guys. Hopefully we can go at him (on offense) and get him into foul trouble. I don't think they're the same team without him."

The game may come down to the Aggies powerful frontcourt of Jordan, Joseph Jones and Bryan Davis against the speedy Huskies defense. But A&M sharpshooter Josh Carter, who leads the team in scoring through the first four games of the year (16.0 ppg), may have to step up again if the Aggies get into foul trouble chasing around the quicker Washington frontcourt.

The opening tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CST) and will air on ESPN2. If the Aggies win, they'll play the winner of Syracuse/Ohio State on Friday at 7 p.m. If they lose, they'll play the loser of that game at 3:30 p.m.

* Dominique Kirk will be making his 101st career start tonight, which is most among active Big 12 players. He's also the winningest starter in school history with a 74-26 career record.
* DeAndre Jordan has made 20-of-22 shots from the field this year (.909) and has 11 dunks in four games (Josh Carter led the team last year with 12 all season). He's averaging 10.0 rebounds per game in the last three games.
* Texas A&M is making its second appearance in the preseason NIT and its first since the inaugural event in 1985. The Aggies lost to Alabama-Birmingham in the first round at The Summit in Houston.
* The Aggies have played at Madison Square Garden one other time—losing to Long Island in the 1949-50 opener, 66-52.

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