Texas A&M Aggies (Last Year: 24-9, 10-6 in Big 12)
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
F/C: Kourtney Roberson (So)/Keith Davis (So)
PF: David Loubeau (Sr)/Ray Turner (Jr)/Daniel Alexander (Fr)
SF: Khris Middleton (Jr)/Zach Kinsley (Sr)
SG: Naji Hibbert (Jr)/Elston Turner (Jr)/Jordan Green (Fr)
PG: Dash Harris (Sr)/Jamal Branch (Fr)
Gone: F/C-Nathan Walkup, G-B.J Holmes, G-Andrew Darko, SG-Derrek Lewis
In their final year in the Big XII before bolting to the SEC, Texas A&M was picked as the preseason favorite to win the conference along with Kansas. They will start that campaign without first-year head coach Billy Kennedy, who begins his tenure at College Station on a medical leave.
Kennedy comes from Murray State and replaces Mark Turgeon who took over for Gary Williams at Maryland. Kennedy is not expected to be sidelined for too long, but until he returns, associate head coach Glynn Cyprien will assume his role.
The Aggies will be led by junior small forward Khris Middleton who was a unanimous All-Big XII preseason selection. The versatile wing can do it all on the floor and will be relied upon as the team's go-to scorer.
David Loubeau was A&M's second leading scorer behind Middleton last season and returns to the starting frontcourt. Kourtney Roberson made the most of his minutes off the bench and figures to step into a bigger role to help replace the loss of Nathan Walkup. Ray Turner was also a key reserve a year ago and will be the first big man off the bench while seldom used Keith Davis and redshirt freshman Daniel Alexander also try to work themselves into the rotation.
Dash Harris will assume the responsibility of the team's main ball-handler, a duty he shared last season with B.J. Holmes. Harris is more of a distributor than scorer as he really struggled shooting the basketball during the 2010-11 campaign. Jamal Branch is a talented freshman who could steal minutes from Harris.
On the wing, Naji Hibbert will likely become a starter a year after serving as the team's sixth man. Washington transfer Elston Turner will add some scoring punch off the bench with his three-point shooting. Zach Kinsley is a former LSU walk-on and another shooter off the bench while freshman Jordan Green gives Kennedy another option on the wing.
The Aggies were offensively challenged at times last season. They lack a real lost-post scoring threat and need someone other than Middleton to emerge as a creator. Their effort on the defensive end will once again play a huge factor in their success.
With a fairly soft non-conference schedule, we won't know if A&M can live up to their lofty preseason expectations until Big XII play gets underway. I think this team is being overrated and might disappoint this season. With that being said, this is a down year for the Big XII with Kansas and Texas having a lot of turnover, so maybe the Aggies can claim their first conference crown since 1986.
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton, SF
A potential NBA lottery pick, Middleton has a fairly complete offensive game. He can shoot it from deep, has a nice mid-range jump shot, creates off the bounce, and has the size and athleticism to cause mismatches for defenses. If he can become a dominant player on both ends of the floor, it will tremendously help the Aggies' conference title hopes.