Five Questions For... Texas A&M Aggies

Welcome to Five Questions For... Texas A&M Aggies.

Here you'll find five of the most pressing questions for the Aggies and our responses. Feel free to contribute your own answers in the comments section.

1. To what extent do you think Coach Billy Kennedy's absence, for an undetermined amount of time while receiving treatment for early stage Parkinson's disease, will affect the team?

2. Junior forward Khris Middleton had a good season last year, earning himself a spot on the All Big 12 second team. What does he need to do to have a great season — and potentially land POY honors — this year?

3. Kennedy has said that he wants A&M to play up-tempo, defense-oriented ball. What kind of contribution can we expect from the three new Aggie guards — freshmen Jordan Green and Jamal Branch, and transfer Elston Turner?

4. A&M, along with Kansas, topped the preseason Big 12 coach's poll. Where would you rank the Aggies? Does Kennedy's leave of absence change your ranking?

5. A&M to the SEC: Any thoughts, anecdotes, pearls of wisdom?

1. To what extent do you think Coach Billy Kennedy's absence, for an undetermined amount of time while receiving treatment for early stage Parkinson's disease, will affect the team?

Matt Patton: A new coach has very little chance to teach his system even without having to sit out an extended period of time. The real question is how the players accept the system from Kennedy's assistant coaches. In the end, I don't think it'll be a huge setback but we'll have to wait and see.

Joe Loyd: I think it has to have somewhat of a negative effect with the new head coach unable to be there and coach the team. It's going to set the Aggies back, just a matter of how much which won't be known until the season has fully gotten underway.

Nathan Kotisso: I don't think it'll affect the team very much because the Aggies were going into the season with a new head coach anyway. The assistant taking over, Glynn Cyprien, is essentially like Steve Fisher when he became the head coach of that talented Michigan team during the 1989 NCAA Tournament. The offense is the same, defense is the same. Shouldn't be a big deal.

Ellen Carnes: It's hard to say. Certainly, because Kennedy is a new coach, this isn't the setback that having a veteran of the program take an extended absence would be. By all accounts, Cyprien is a capable coach who has known Kennedy for decades. But I imagine news this serious right before the start of the season has to shake up the team a little.

2. Junior forward Khris Middleton had a good season last year, earning himself a spot on the All Big 12 second team. What does he need to do to have a great season - and potentially land POY honors - this year?

MP: Keep improving. Most importantly it would be nice for him to get his three point shooting up closer to 40 percent, which should up his points significantly. Becoming more of a factor on the glass would also help garner some POY voters. The biggest obstacle to Middleton's campaign may be Texas A&M's change of style. But if they win the conference and Middleton is clearly the best player on the team, it'll be hard to argue.

JL: He can't disappear in a big game like he did a couple of times last season. Against Texas last year I believe he went scoreless for the whole game and against KU he was held to single digits in points scored. Those games are ones that everyone watches and makes judgments on.

NK: It's hard to find a hole in Middleton's game, but if there's something to be picky about, it would be his consistency against upper-echelon teams. Last year, Middleton scored in the single digits against teams like Temple, Texas, Missouri and Kansas. I'll get a sense of where Middleton is as a big time player when A&M plays a non-conference tilt at Florida in another month and a half. 

EC: I agree. More games like those late last season where Middleton scored very low (or not at all) could hurt him. When he's on, he's great. I don't know if the issue is focus or fatigue or reluctance to demand the ball, but hopefully he can step up his game against elite teams this year and make every minute count.

3. Kennedy has said that he wants A&M to play up-tempo, defense-oriented ball. What kind of contribution can we expect from the three new Aggie guards - freshmen Jordan Green and Jamal Branch, and transfer Elston Turner?

MP: They'll provide minutes and fouls. I really think we'll see them based on how well they're practicing on defense. One interesting side-note here is that Kennedy's never had a particularly "up-tempo" team. Now, I don't know if that means Ken Pomeroy and Billy Kennedy have different definitions of "up-tempo," but I don't know why Kennedy would change both his and his returning players' coaching styles.

JL: Although I honestly don't remember watching him play much for Washington it sounds like Turner might be able to provide some spot scoring for A&M which is essential since the Aggies sometimes struggle to put the ball in the hole. I think Branch will have a pretty strong impact as well playing in a reserve role with some energy off the bench both scoring and setting up the offense.

NK: A&M already has a bevy of juniors and seniors in their regular rotation, so I don't think a fair assessment of the incoming freshmen can be made this year. Elston Turner, on the other hand, should be one of the first players off the bench for the Aggies. He's also a lethal three-point threat (38% in 2009-10). 

EC: That's interesting, Matt. I wonder if "up-tempo" has become one of those buzzwords that doesn't really mean anything, like "synergy"... If the Aggies do go with an up-tempo attack, they'll need warm bodies like Green and Branch. I also expect to see Turner contribute a lot from beyond the arc.

4. A&M, along with Kansas, topped the pre-season Big 12 coach's poll. Where would you rank the Aggies? Does Kennedy's leave of absence change your ranking?

MP: I personally think it's too high. The Aggies return a lot of production, but they were overrated last season. I think the Big 12 is Baylor's conference to lose (despite questions in the backcourt), but I've been burned by Kansas enough to know not to bet against the Jayhawks in conference play. I'd probably put A&M third, barely in front of a Missouri team (though by the end of the season, I wouldn't be surprised at all if those switched). A&M is definitely in the top tier of the conference.

JL: I think it's too high simply based off the fact that new coach is in place and it sometimes takes some time to adjust especially with a veteran team. They definitely should be in the Top 3 though.

NK: I have said and will continue to say that Texas A&M will win this conference. I know we would have expected Bill Self to pull another bunny out of the hat this season for Kansas, but it's hard to do that when a couple of freshmen they were going to rely on are ineligible for the entire year. With Kennedy out, I think A&M rolls right along, especially through that easy non-conference slate.

EC: I'd also put A&M in the top 3 (along with Baylor and Kansas), but I think 1 is too high, especially with a new coach. Since it happened before the season and not partway through, Kennedy's leave of absence doesn't change my ranking.

5. A&M to the SEC: Any thoughts, anecdotes, pearls of wisdom?

MP: Good luck in football. Though truthfully, people make a bigger deal about the depth of the SEC than they should. True, the SEC produces two top teams every year, but there's usually plenty of space after that.

JL: Nope, really once A&M started acting like punks and announcing their move to SEC, I now cheer for them to lose every game. Maybe sour grapes on my part but just how I feel.

NK: Sure I'll miss the Aggies in the Big 12, but if there's an upside, they'll be the third-best team in their new conference. The SEC has a heavy top 2 in Kentucky and Florida which means assuming A&M can get their typical 23-25 wins a year, they may earn a better seed for the NCAAs then they would have playing in the balanced Big 12.

EC: I'll miss having the Aggies in the conference, especially the UT-A&M games. Hope all the kids are nice to them at the cooler lunch table.

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