The joy and optimism among A&M fans after entering the conference season with a 14-1record seems like a distant memory as of Monday. The Big 12 has been a different story altogether for Texas A&M, who now stand at 1-4 in the conference after the most brutal 5 game stretch in conference history.
Once considered heavy favorites to make the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year, the Aggies have a long way to go to be considered for a selection, and it starts this week with two more contests with Big 12 South opponents, as they face Texas Tech on Wednesday and get a rematch against Oklahoma State on Saturday to close out January's games.
This week may be crucial to the team as far as post-season placement is concerned, but Head Coach Mark Turgeon does not want his team to be thinking about the importance as they go through practice this week.
"[It is a big week], but you never want to put that kind of pressure on your guys," Turgeon said. "We've had a hard week, but we've done some good things. We improved on some things against Texas that we didn't do as well as in the game against Kansas, so we have to continue and get better."
One of the biggest advantages A&M will have this week is that they get to play both games in the comfort of Reed Arena. The Aggies are protecting the nation's largest win percentage over the past years in non conference games at home, going a perfect 100% this season. Additionally, there only loss at home has come at the hands of #5 Oklahoma, who pulled away after the Aggies made a late run to make the game close.
"Oklahoma got us at home, but it should help [that we are playing at home this week]," Turgeon said. "We had a great crowd there and we'll hopefully have a great crowd this week, so we are excited to get to play at home."
After the past two games, the Aggies must also find an answer for the opposing teams' neutralization of Chinemelu Elonu, the breakout star of the team. A&M has yet to be successful when other teams will double team the post positions, and Turgeon feels that this must change for the team to be successful.
"Well Chinemelu is one of the most improved players in the league; in fact he might be the most improved," Turgeon said. "He did well in the first half against Texas, and then he was double teamed. Kansas also did this to us in the first half, and then we adjusted away from it. We have to make teams pay for guarding us like that; our guards need to get better at getting the ball out and making the shots when they double the inside.
"Another thing is that Chin needs to have more practice with the double team," Turgeon continued. "He needs to set lower so he can fight it off and do a better job of recognizing it so he can make the right pass. He also needs to get the offensive rebounds. They can't double team him if he gets the ball from a rebound, so we need to work on that."
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