Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Friars preparing to face Aggies in NCAA tournament

March 12, 2018 - 6:01 pm

Providence’s first-round NCAA opponent Friday in Charlotte, NC – Texas A&M – has a long-standing tradition of pride, pomp and plenty of circumstance within Texas borders.

But are they any good at basketball?  But what exactly is an “Aggie?”  And what does the “A&M” stand for, anyway?

Let’s take these questions one at a time. 

In basketball, yes, they’re pretty good.  Good enough at one point earlier in this season to be ranked as high as 5th nationally (at 11-1), just prior to the start of league play in the SEC.  But the conference was cruel to the Aggies in the first few weeks, starting the season 0-5 that included consecutive home losses to LSU and Florida.

There were also early season suspensions that could have rattled the strong start, with big men Robert Williams and D.J. Hogg missing the first two games along with guard Admon Gilder for reported violations of university policy.  Guards J.J. Caldwell (eventually kicked off the team) and T.J. Starks also each missed a game for university policy violations, leaving head coach Billy Kennedy apologetic to the school and fans for an uncomfortable amount of time as the SEC schedule began in late December.

Add to this mix a crucial knee injury to starting point guard Duane Wilson, a graduate transfer from Marquette, that cost him the remainder of his college career after 22 games, and a knee injury to Gilder that caused him some missed time early in SEC play – and it’s easy to see why A&M may have struggled for a time. 

But make no mistake about it – 20-12 A&M is plenty talented.  And tall.  The 6-9 Williams was the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, and is thought to be lottery-worthy in NBA draft circles.  But he’s not the biggest Aggie in the middle, as 6-10, 265 pound Tyler Davis and 6-10, 221 pound Tonny Trocha-Morelos also anchor the inside, with 6-9, 220-pound D.J. Hogg on the wing.

There’s some beef in Texas, yes sir.

The Aggies are solid defensively and one of the best teams nationally in rebounding margin and blocked shots, as their size might indicate.  Tough to go around them, or over them.  Texas A&M doesn’t shoot the three particularly well, but then again, they haven’t had to do that much – instead feeding the ball inside to the mountains masquerading as men.

“They played in a great conference, so they’re going to be battle-tested,” PC head coach Ed Cooley reasoned.  “It’ll be fun though, I’m going to enjoy it.  I’m really, really excited about this challenge.”

Best wins for A&M undoubtedly came early against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and USC before the injuries, suspensions and schedule difficulty took its toll.  The Aggies’ 0-5 start in SEC play wasn’t the only dry spell in the league, as they also lost three straight again in early February, finishing 9-9 in conference, and lost four of their final seven games overall.

Ok, so what is an “Aggie?”  To explain that, you need to know what “A&M” stands for.  Texas A&M was founded in 1876 as a land, sea and space grant institution, called the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas – hence, A&M.  An Aggie is simply short slang for an A&M student, often used (somewhat) derisively by students and fans of other Texas schools.  Aggie jokes often rule the roost in Texas, much as they do for any nationality or ethnic group in other parts of the country.

The Army Corps of Cadets has also played a major part in school history, with Texas A&M one of just six senior military colleges in the US.

Located in College Station, Texas (northwest of Houston), Texas A&M is the largest school in the state with an enrollment of more than 62,000 students.

Big school.  Big team.  Big challenge for 3800-student Providence College in the Big East.  But Friday at noontime in North Carolina, it will still be five-on-five when the ball goes up at center court. 

Broadcast time on 103.7 WEEI-FM and will begin at 12:00, with tip-off scheduled for 12:15 ET.