It's always hard to gauge how good or bad the Aggies are going to be based on these exhibition games. Last year I was blown away by Bandja Sy against Western. I'll get back to Bandja in a minute.
Here are a few things I'm looking forward to for the exhibition game against Eastern on Monday at the Pan Am. Feel free to throw in what you're looking for as well.
Rotation: I feel like the starting five should be Hernst Laroche, Gordo Castillo, Tyrone Watson, Troy Gillenwater and Hamidu Rahman.
Four of those spots are fairly nailed down one would think. Castillo is a logical choice to start out, at least until Christian Kabongo proves he's ready to surpass a senior. I talked to Gordo about what they are expecting from him this season. Look for him to back up the point guard at times this season while Laroche is on the bench. At least to start the season. Christian Kabongo could ultimately end up as the main backup at point guard.
Gordo: "I'm not as quick as Hernst but I know the offense. I've been here so long. So I can get the ball and get us in the offense and get us going. Maybe give Hernst a break and get CK used to it. He's a freshman but he's catching on. I think that's what they are trying to do, just ease CK into it and not just throw him out there right away."
Practices and the scrimmage against Texas Tech last week have prepared the Aggies to open the season, Gordo said.
"I think we are definitely where we want to be. We might be a little ahead but to us, nothing is ever enough. We just keep on getting better. Guys have been going at each other. We are going at it like a real game. We will have mistakes but we have to learn from it and get those younger guys in there and get them a feel so they know what to do and how it is."
Bandja Sy, Chili Nephawe, Christian Kabongo will be battling early on for minutes. But it's not just 1-8 that hasn't been settled. Freshman Renaldo Dixon, sophomore BJ West and Abdoulaye Ndoye are all capable of contributing in spot duty.
Marvin Menzies: "We have a few guys who are competing for positions and want to see how they perform on the floor in the real game against opponents other than their teammates. We want to see if there is some separation to give the coaches some better clarity. That is just walking out. There is still going to be opportunities for those type of guys but there are guys competing for minutes, not just to start but to be on the floor. We can use this game as a measuring stick at least before we start against Louisiana. They are all guys when given their minutes, if their performance is at a maximum, it will get them more minutes, whether they are in the playing eight or have an opportunity as the ninth and tenth man."
On Renaldo Dixon, who due to the injury to Wendell McKines, will likely not redshirt.
"He's progressing at a pretty good rate. He is still very much a freshman but he has a great upside. He is a great student and is a joy to coach and a great athlete. Strengthwise he is OK, it's just his familiarity with the system where he is struggling right now but that comes with time."
The Aggies have all said the right things regarding an increased focus on these two aspects. I'm sure it depends on the lineup on the court that will dictate what defense to play. If Castillo plays more minutes, look for the Aggies to play more zone than normal, which is a good thing this year with the added length that Castillo and Watson or Sy adds along the baseline. Watson and Sy would likely be at the midcourt level of the Aggies' 2-2-1 press while they fall back into the zone so the hope is that there could be some turnovers and easy baskets there. Rebounding should be much improved with Gillenwater, Rahman and either Watson or Sy playing on the wing.
Menzies: "We have struggled with rebounding early on the past couple seasons. As the season progresses and the emphasis is there, they develop at it. We didn't play Michigan State to within three points because we outscored them. We rebounded 40-40. Rebounding wins championships. People say defense wins championships. My feeling is that offense will get a bunch of people in the stands and people like to see that. It will help you win some games, but if you want to win championships, you have to rebound."
I want to see how much Troy has improved. We got a glimpse of it last year and against Michigan State, I would say that Gillenwater and Rahman both showed that they are high major players playing at a mid major. But that was just one game. Troy has range and a post game that will be tough for teams on the Aggies schedule to match up with. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I guess we will soon find out.