South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.
Oct. 26: Alabama
Oct. 27: Arkansas
Oct. 28: Auburn
Oct. 29: Florida
Oct. 30: Georgia
Oct. 31: Kentucky
Nov. 1: LSU
Nov. 2: Mississippi State
Nov. 3: Missouri
Nov. 4: Ole Miss
Nov. 5: Tennessee
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 18-15, 7-11 (11th)
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Billy Kennedy (32-33, third year; 243-212, 16th year)
Top returners: G Fabyon Harris (12.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg); F Kourtney Roberson (6.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg); G J’Mychal Reese (6.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Biggest losses: Elston Turner (17.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Ray Turner (9.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg); Andrew Young (2.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Well, that was an eventful offseason.
Texas A&M had a solid season last year, winning 18 games but not making the postseason, but it seemed that things were on the way up. Billy Kennedy has won nearly 250 games in his career and the feeling was that the Aggies could find a way to finish in the top half of the SEC.
Kourtney Roberson is recovering from a broken ankle suffered in December and should be ready for the season-opener, but then J-Mychal Reese was hit with an indefinite suspension for violation athletic department rules. Kennedy talked about Reese recently and said he will miss a few games, that he knows the minimum number of games that he will miss, but it could grow. He didn’t say what the minimum was.
That brought it all back around. First, Kennedy seemed to have a good handle on his future when he was signing solid recruits despite this (Sickening). Definitely not easy to recruit when you honestly don’t know how healthy you’ll be three-four-five years down the road. But apparently Kennedy has been given an ultimatum as well.
Athletic director Eric Hyman (remember him?) was said by a local report to have issued a no-nonsense directive to Kennedy (On notice). If that’s accurate, A&M is really under the gun.
The Aggies have a solid team, more athletic than in years past, but the school is also not known for being patient. It’s a money-printing factory, A&M is, and it can get any coach it wants. With Hyman, a former basketball coach, overseeing it, the hoops program will always be under a microscope. Keep in mind, A&M was an NCAA tournament staple before Kennedy arrived, and it’s missed the last two.
Even though three years is an awfully short time to judge a basketball coach’s worth, at a school where great athletic success is expected across the board, it may end up being just the right length.
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 25-10, 11-5 (T-4th) *NCAA second round
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Gary Blair (237-100, 11th year; 645-263, 29th year)
Top returners: G Courtney Walker (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg); F/G Courtney Williams (6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); C Karla Gilbert (5.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
Biggest losses: Kelsey Bone (16.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg); Kristi Bellock (10.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg); Adrienne Pratcher (9.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
The SEC definitely benefited from having Texas A&M and Missouri joining the league for football, but it also greatly enhanced its women’s basketball reputation. While the league has always been strong, much of it has been the residual effects of Tennessee being dominant.
Texas A&M really helps change that.
National champs in 2011, A&M has an eight-year NCAA tournament streak. Gary Blair has won nearly 650 games during his long career (he was at Arkansas before coming to A&M) and has another strong team coming back.
He did lose leading scorer and rebounder Kelsey Bone (remember her?) after Bone decided to forfeit her last year of eligibility and head to the WNBA. But he returns Courtney Williams and Courtney Walker (good luck keeping that straight). Blair also continues to have height – Jada Terry is 6-foot-3, Karla Gilbert is 6-5 and Rachel Mitchell is 6-7.
The Aggies will be good and continue to be good. They’ll be challenging for the SEC title and could very well be the ones to knock off Tennessee.
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