For most Texas A&M basketball fans it's been a disappointing season. Coming off a Sweet 16 appearance a year ago, the expectations were higher than they'd ever been in the program's history.
But despite the roller coaster ride that the Aggies have put their fans on this season, overall, head coach Mark Turgeon chooses to take the glass-half-full approach.
"I don't think we're as disappointed with our regular season as everyone (thinks we are). We have a new coaching staff, we lost some pretty good players and the league is as good as it's ever been," said Turgeon, who did acknowledge the fact that his Aggies could have finished stronger. "We lost a couple of home games we shouldn't have lost, but we showed some signs against Baylor, and defensively against KU, when we weren't turning the ball over, we were playing at a pretty high level."
Now, Turgeon just hopes he can take the high level of play that the Aggies saw against Baylor in Waco last Wednesday and turn it into a run through the Big 12 Tournament this weekend in Kansas City.
"We want to go up there and play well and win a game or two. We've never done that in our history," said Turgeon, who added that winning Thursday night against Iowa State is huge for the Aggies' NCAA Tournament hopes. "It's huge, but we're trying not to put too much on it, because we don't want our kids to play tight. We've taken the mindset that we're going to go up there and try to win the whole tournament and be loose and play hard."
Turgeon is disappointed that the Aggies couldn't have finished as the No. 4 or No. 5 seed, which he believes would have given them a more favorable draw through the first two rounds of the tournament.
"I would rather have been the fifth seed and play Colorado bc they wouldn't have any fans there. We would have played Oklahoma (in the sec) and it wouldn't have been a home game for them either. As far as fan base goes, I think it was a bad draw.
I think Iowa State will bring fans and if we're lucky enough to win, K State will have a lot of fans there. It will be like a home game for Kansas State."
But Turgeon admits that losing those two home games against Oklahoma State and Nebraska put them in this position, now all the Aggies can do is play the cards they've been dealt.
Turgeon put the Aggies through a tough practice on Monday, but said he's careful to walk the fine line between conditioning his players for possibly playing four games in four days, while also keeping them fresh.
"It's a fine line because you want to stay sharp," Turgeon said. "We went really hard yesterday, physically it was really demanding on them, but you've got to prep your team to play four games in a row and our depth hasn't been what it needs to be. We'll get our top guys ready to go and hopefully if we're able to win a couple and move forward we'll be deep enough. The main thing is to get prepared for the first one and get ready for that game and that's what we're looking for as a staff"
That first game will come on Thursday night against a much healthier Iowa State team than the last time the two squads squared off in Ames, Iowa
"(Freshman forward Craig) Brackins has played well lately and he didn't play well against us," Turgeon said. "He's coming off a huge game against K State where he played really well. Wesley Johnson's healthy now, he was limping around at 80% or so when we played them. Of course we'll have Dominique on him, so that makes you feel better. (Diante) Garrett has really grown up at point guard and there's been a lot of fight in them. They had the overtime loss to Missouri and the buzzer beater against K State."
In addition to being healthier this time around, the Iowa State coaching staff knows a thing or two about Turgeon's style of play. Cyclones head coach Greg McDermott and Turgeon have squared off 12 times in their careers, with McDermott holding a 7-5 advantage over Turgeon.
ISU assistant coach Jean Prioleau also served under Turgeon at Wichita State from 2001-2005 as well.
It's that familiarity and friendship that leaves Turgeon wishing he did not have to face the Cyclones in this must-win situation.
"I'm sure (McDermott) feels the same way, but there's no choice in the matter," Turgeon said. "At this time of year there's no secrets. We know what they're going to do, they know what we're going to do, it's just a matter of which group plays better that night."
TURGEON KEEPING EYE ON MID-MAJOR TOURNAMENTS
With the Aggies one loss away from being in serious "bubble trouble," Turgeon is keeping an eye on the mid-major tournaments--some more than others.
"I watch Gonzaga because I'm friends with (that staff), but would I rather there not be upsets? Yeah," Turgeon said. "You don't want a lot of them, but there's going to be a few, it happens every year. I think (the mid-major team getting upset) cringes more because it's harder to get in at that level. I've been there. "
Turgeon ready for fresh start in B12 Tourney
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