Aggies try to return to NCAA tourney after last year's snub

Aggies try to return to NCAA tourney after last year’s snub

Coach Buzz Williams is still looking for his first NCAA Tournament appearance as he begins his fourth season at Texas A&M.

In case anyone is wondering, he doesn’t regret calling out the tournament committee for what he perceived as a snub of his Aggies last season after they didn’t get a NCAA bid despite reaching the the SEC tournament final.

“I’m going to always do that, regardless of what Twitter says or the opinions of others,” he said. “What I said is what I believe, regardless of the fanfare and the ferocity of things that were said about me. I understood going into that what was going to be said. If you can’t stand up for your people when you believe you should stand up for them, then I don’t believe you’re worthy of being a leader.”

The Aggies settled for the NIT instead, where they reached the title game before falling 73-72 to Xavier on a last-second shot.

Williams has plenty of NCAA Tournament success, having taken Virginia Tech to the tournament in his last three seasons there and guiding Marquette into March Madness for five straight seasons from 2009-13.

After their late-season success last year, the Aggies are confident this will be the year they finally return to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since 2018, when Billy Kennedy was the coach.

“The opportunity we have this year is way greater,” Texas A&M guard Tyrece Radford said. “Because we know what we’re capable of.”

They’ll have to do it without last year’s top scorer Quenton Jackson, who left early to pursue a professional basketball career. He averaged 14.8 points a game last season and was great down the stretch as the Aggies won 11 of their last 13 games.

“We’ll miss who he is,” Williams said. “We’ll miss him as a person. We’ll miss his competitive character. We’ll for sure miss his speed and his skill.”

Williams doesn’t expect one player to make up for Jackson but believes it will be more of a committee approach.

“I don’t know if there is a person on our current roster that will step in and do immediately what (Jackson) did at the end of his career, but I think there are guys that will kind of be able to do bits and pieces,” Williams said.

THEY’RE BACK

Though Jackson is gone, the Aggies have several returning players who were major contributors on last year’s team.

Forward Henry Coleman is the team’s top returning scorer after averaging 11 points a game last season and he is joined by Radford (10.9 ppg). The two led the team in rebounding last season when both players grabbed 6.2 a game.

“This team is hungry,” Coleman said. “We’re ready to work. Everyone acknowledges what happened last year. I think our culture, who we are, we’re ready to work, and we’ll continue to work.

NEW FACES

The Aggies added three players who are expected to contribute immediately in transfers Dexter Dennis, Julius Marble and KK Robinson.

Dennis, a 6-foot-5 guard, leads the group after being named American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year at Wichita State last season. Dennis averaged 8.4 points and five rebounds while piling up 24 blocks and 24 steals.

Marble, a 6-9 forward, averaged 6.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in a reserve role at Michigan State last year. Robinson, another guard, joins the Aggies after limited playing time in two seasons at Arkansas.

“The guys we’ve brought in are guys who have prepared and are willing to work,” Coleman said. “Julius, Dexter, KK … they’ve adapted unbelievably. They’re ready to work each and every day. I’m excited those guys are here.”

STUFF SCHEDULE

The Aggies open the season at home against Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 7. The non-conference slate includes visits to DePaul and Memphis and a visit from Oregon State. They begin SEC play Jan. 4 at Florida.

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