Improvement Transforming New Culture for Texas A&M Basketball
COLLEGE STATION - The word "change" has always been a part of Buzz Williams' vocabulary. Helping transform the cultures of Marquette and Virginia Tech, the long-time coach is always looking for positive production from his staff.
As Texas A&M moves into the heart of Southeastern Conference play, Williams can feel a difference from when he began back in April of 2019. A new-found consistency in his players, the Aggies Men's Basketball team is looking stronger than ever after a rocky start in the new era on the court.
Since the 60-50 loss against former rival Texas in Forth Worth, the Aggies are a new team with something to prove. Going 5-2 over the past month, A&M looks significantly more efficient than the team that suffered a four-game losing streak.
Despite an 89-85 loss to LSU on Tuesday, A&M (8-7, 2-2 SEC) can hold their head high, knowing they're improving at a rapid pace. The team shot a season-high in points and was 43% in 3-point shooting, their highest percentage under Williams thus far. Perhaps everything will accumulate on Saturday when the team hosts South Carolina (9-7, 1-2 SEC).
"There's been a lot of consistency in our program," Williams said Thursday. "There's been consistency in our effort. There's been consistency in how we study film. There's been consistency in our attitude. All of that is a credit to our guys, but maybe the separator is there's been a consistency in how we collectively think."
Since their 0-3 run at the Orlando Invitational, practices have picked up for the staff. With eight games this month, A&M will be pushed for time in the gym and have to correct their mistakes during live games.
Senior Josh Nebo continues to be the vocal leader for the Aggies offense. On Thursday, he stated that the new offensive plan run by Williams took time adjusting to, but now is thriving with the staff. Nebo currently leads the team with 12.1 points per game and 7.9 rebounds.
"I feel like it's showing now," Nebo said. "Those times are when we get better. Competing against each other when nobody's there, those are the times when you really improve as a team and I feel like it's showing now."
Improvement is well-documented for the Aggies as they move through SEC play. Through four conference games, A&M ranks third in field goal percentage (44.1) and are averaging over 30 rebounds per game (35.1). Ranked last in 3-point shooting among all NCAA teams, the team improved against the Tigers and also allowed a season-low seven turnovers.
The season as a whole has been greeted with mixed results. Convincing wins against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Oregon State could be the start of something promising, but just getting by Texas A&M Corpus-Christi and Texas raises questions. If consistency is vital, perhaps showing some against similar opponents could help the Aggies improve their identity.
"Having consistency in month six after all that has transpired, I think that's a good sign," Williams said. "Does it mean we'll win a bunch? I don't know. Does it mean we'll lose a bunch? I don't know. I can't control the results, but the consistency in what we're doing daily, there's been some momentum."
A&M will have their hands full against an improving South Carolina team. On Wednesday, the Gamecocks pulled off the upset against No.10 Kentucky when Jermain Cousand hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win, 80-78.
For A&M, a win would add fuel to the program moving closer to March's tournament. A loss wouldn't end their season on Saturday afternoon. For Williams and his staff, the important part is improving from the game before.
A&M finally found consistency in the 3-point range. Nebo said finding another flaw to fix will only help the team improve entering the heart on conference play.
"We're very encouraged as a team with the progress we're making," Nebo said. "I feel like we're getting better every month, every week, so we have to stay on the right path to keep getting better."
The Aggies will host South Carolina on Saturday, January 18, at Reed Arena for a Noon tipoff. The game will be nationally televised on SEC Network.