The Aggies Have Buzzer Beating Results Under Williams
COLLEGE STATION — As Texas A&M found a new regime under athletic director Ross Bjork, the former Rebel had to live up to that title. With the decision to change the culture on the court, Bjork elected to part ways from long-time A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who failed to make the NCAA tournament in six of his eight seasons with the program.
A rebrand on the tiles was in place, so Bjork knew he needed a mind to take control in College Station. In March, the school was able to entice Buzz Williams to join the staff for the 2019-20 year.
As the season comes to close, the buzzing news around the SEC is Williams' success in February. Two things are certain though as the Aggies begin their two-game set against top-25 teams; Williams was the right hire and best fear the Aggies in the future.
Winners of three straight games, the Aggies (14-12, 8-6 SEC) will face one of their mightiest matchup of the season when No. 8 and SEC-leading Kentucky (22-5, 12-2) enter Reed Arena at 6 p.m. Tuesday. A week later, the team will travel to the plains of Auburn to take on Bruce Pearl and the No.15 Auburn (23-4, 10-4 SEC).
In one breath, A&M should look like the underdog. Poor shooting has been a factor all season and offensive play has kept the team in the cellar of conference production. Then again, are they an easy win anymore?
Just ask Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State. They all found out the power of the buzzer-beating coach's success this season.
Georgia, who is led by future NBA star Anthony Edwards, was defeated on the road thanks to a 21-point performance from Emanuel Miller. Alabama, perhaps the hottest team in the SEC, fell in Title Town after a 20-point outing by Quenton Jackson's. Mississippi State, led by long-time coach Ben Howland, helped the Aggies set new season-high records on offense over the weekend.
Oh, if that wasn't enough to make the Wildcats shiver, A&M were the underdogs in each contest. The recent run not only proves Williams' mold but also how production truly is all that matters on the court.
“We’re just figuring out everything,” A&M guard Wendell Mitchell said of Williams’ approach to coaching. “Everything is coming together.”
Two of the four final games for Williams' first season will come against ranked opponents. As it stands now, both Auburn and Kentucky are expected to represent the conference in the NCAA tournament next month. Depending on how the Aggies far, it could be enough for the team to earn a spot in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Despite the hype surrounding Kentucky, who has won their last six outings after falling to Auburn on the road, the focus is on the success of the past. Four early losses to non-ranked opponents certainly derailed the Aggies from looking like contenders.
But perhaps contention is won, but rather earned. Under Williams, the Aggies should contend for the respect of every program in the conference heading into the Music City Tournament next month.
“We’re playing incredibly hard, and it took us a long time to get to this point,” Williams said. “They now understand the value of playing hard. … (Now) to be thinking about, ‘Oh, here comes Big Blue Nation and coach (John Calipari), and he’s the best ever …’ None of those words are going on among our staff and among our players.
“We’re just grateful for the chance to have seen what our work has been able to do. And there’s a level of excitement of, ‘OK, good, we get to try again.’”
The Aggies will close out the season against Arkansas on Mar.7. The team began conference play against Eric Musselman's roster, falling short in Fayetteville, 69-59.