Hurley Era begins Friday night
Men's basketball set to open season at Texas A&M
The men's basketball team won't ease into its schedule with a cupcake. It will face one of its toughest opponents all year on Friday night.
The Bulls have traveled over 1,400 miles to College Station, Texas, to take on the Texas A&M Aggies of the Southeastern Conference.
It's hard to judge the Aggies right now. Last season, they had impressive wins over Kentucky and No. 21 Missouri, but they aren't returning last year's leading scorer, Elston Turner (17.5 points per game).
"It's a bit of a mystery," said first-year head coach Bobby Hurley. "I'd like to know more about them and be more familiar with what they're going to do, but they're probably in the same boat."
In fact, the Aggies may be more mystified as to what to expect from the Bulls, who will play their first game in 14 years without former coach Reggie Witherspoon. Hurley has implemented an entirely new gameplan that focuses on lockdown defensive intensity and pushing the ball up the court for transition buckets.
The plan may be tested more in Game One than in any other game this year.
"They're pretty athletic," Hurley said. "Their roster has changed significantly, but they're an SEC power conference team."
Athletic ability is typically what distinguishes the caliber of player between mid-major conferences and power conferences. Nonetheless, Hurley still wants his team to play in the open court.
The Bulls do appear to have some advantages on paper, though. The Aggies' leading rebounder, 6-foot-9 forward Kourtney Roberson, left practice a few weeks ago with a rapid heart rate and the Bulls don't know if he'll be in action Friday.
If Roberson can't go, the Aggies will lean on inexperienced forwards - which should play in the Bulls' favor, as All-MAC forwards Javon McCrea and Will Regan are the strength of their offense.
In the backcourt, the Aggies' returning scoring leader is point guard Fabyon Harris (12 points per game), who stands at a mere 5-foot-11.
"One of our strengths on our team is the pressure we're able to exert on the opposing point guard and hopefully that will be consistent throughout the year," Hurley said. "Jarod [Oldham] is an elite defender and Shannon Evans is not too far off. I have a lot of confidence in both those guys defensively."
Hints of the true freshman guard Evans cracking the Bulls' rotation have surfaced all offseason and this may pose as a good matchup for the newcomer.
Hurley won't reveal his full starting lineup for Friday. He confirmed that senior guard Oldham, McCrea and Regan will be in the lineup, and he knows who the other two starters will be, but doesn't want to give Texas A&M an advantage in releasing the lineup. The Aggies haven't announced their starters either.
Many expect the Bulls' other two starters to be sophomore guard Jarryn Skeete and senior guard/forward Josh Freelove, though senior Corey Raley-Ross is also in the mix at the 3 spot.
The game will not be televised. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.