Big 12 Team Previews: Texas A&M

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking an in-depth look at every school in the Big 12.  I'll focus on the past (i.e. last season's strengths and weaknesses), the changes (i.e. incoming freshmen, departing seniors, new coaches), and the future.

See past previews: Iowa StateNebraskaOklahomaTexas Tech

Probably the biggest offseason story was the tragic death of top recruit, Tobi Oyedegi.  Oyedegi died in a car crash on the way home from his senior prom, just days before his high school graduation.  He would have been a great player for A&M, and our hearts go out to his family.

Texas A&M had a very strong season lsat year, sneaking into the top 25 before earning a five seed at the big dance.  Unfortunately, they lost a lot of players to graduation.  More specifically, they lost Donald Sloan (top scorer), Bryan Davis (top rebounder and third highest scorer), and Derrick Roland (second highest scorer).  Roland probably stings the most, as his red shirt appeal was denied by the NCAA after his sickening injury against Washington last December.  Or if you prefer numbers, the Aggies lost 38 points, 15 rebounds, and almost 6 assists a game.  David Loubeau, BJ Holmes, and Khris Middleton are really going to have to step up if the Aggies want to come close to last season's strength.  Loubeau and Middleton are prime for "breakout" years, but I doubt they'll sniff last season's success.

More after the jump.

As for the incoming class, Texas A&M is adding three solid recruits in Daniel Alexander, Kourtney Roberson, and Keith Davis to the roster.  All three are 6' 8" or taller, so the frontcourt shouldn't have any problem with depth.  Unfortunately, coach Mark Turgeon hasn't been nearly as successful in recruiting guards: with no newcomers, the pressure will be on BJ Holmes and Dash Harris to pick up the slack.  This should also mean that Naji Hibbert sees a lot more minutes on the perimeter.  This forward-heavy squad will, like most Turgeon teams of lore, rely on tough defense and depth to wear down opponents.  While Kansas State has more talent, I'm pretty excited to see the Aggies' frontcourt clash with the Wildcats this January.

Luckily for the Aggies, they should have some time to mature: the only major conference teams scheduled are Boston College, Washington, and Arkansas.  Washington probably poses the biggest threat, although BC has been known to surprise people.  As for their conference schedule, the Aggies play Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor twice.  Oklahoma should provide a couple of free wins, but the rest will be difficult games.  Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will be toss-ups (who knows how good Texas is going to be), but Baylor may prove too athletic to contain.

This is going to be a real test for Mark Turgeon and the Aggies.  They've lost leaders of the past and the future on the court, and they'll have to overcome these challenges if they want to succeed in a deep, talented conference next year.  While there will be a drop off--they've just lost too much to replace--I suspect the Aggies will find themselves back at the Big Dance again next March.

Follow me on Twitter: @rise_and_fire

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