Replacing Acie Law, a Rivals.com first-team All-American in 2006-07, will be a two-man responsibility. Senior Dominique Kirk and sophomore Donald Sloan will share time at point guard. Both also will see considerable time at shooting guard.
Kirk, a three-year starter, has played most of his career on the wing. He's known as a defensive specialist, and the Aggies need him to make more of an impact offensively. They went 9-2 when Kirk scored in double figures last season, including two wins in the NCAA Tournament.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
With Acie Law IV out of the picture, Joseph Jones must take on a greater role.
The explosive Sloan has more of scorer's mentality and the skills to be a go-to guy someday. He earned valuable minutes as a steady part of the rotation last season.
The lack of depth behind Kirk and Sloan is a concern. No other guard on the roster has played significant minutes at this level. Sophomore Derrick Roland and junior Bryson Graham, a junior-college transfer, need to contribute.
New coach Mark Turgeon, who put together a 128-90 record in seven seasons at Wichita State, may have inherited the best front line in the Big 12.
Junior small forward Josh Carter led the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage in 2006-07, shooting 50 percent (86-of-172) from beyond the arc. At 6 feet 7, Carter has the size to shoot over most defenders and can help out on the glass.
Senior power forward Joseph Jones is a scoring threat on the inside. The three-year starter has a big frame (6-9, 250) and soft hands. He has averaged between 12.7 ppg and 15.3 ppg during his career.
Freshman DeAndre Jordan, a 7-footer who has been tagged as a future NBA lottery pick, will give the Aggies what they lacked during the Billy Gillispie era – a shot-blocking threat on the inside. The five-star prospect is raw offensively, but his athleticism and size will make him an instant force on defense and on the boards. He played on the U.S. team at the U-19 World Championships in July.
Sophomore big man Bryan Davis (6-9, 245), who saw action in a backup role last season, can play power forward or center. More depth could come in the form of athletic sophomore Chinemelu Elonu (6-10, 225) and freshman Denzell Bowles, whom Turgeon originally signed at Wichita State.
The days of giving the ball to Law and just letting him create are gone. Turgeon prefers a more balanced attack. During the past four seasons at Wichita State, no player averaged more than 13.8 ppg. During their run to the Sweet 16 in 2006, the five starters averaged between eight and 13.1 points per game. Look for the shots to be divided fairly evenly among Jones, Carter, Sloan and Kirk.
The players won't have to adapt too much defensively. Turgeon, like Gillispie, uses man-to-man heavily.
Opponents shot just 37.5 percent from the field against the Aggies last season, second in the nation. It's possible that number could get even lower. Jordan will alter a lot of shots and keep a lot of opponents off the offensive glass. Plus, Sloan has all the makings of a good on-ball defender.
Outlook with postseason forecast
Gillispie left Turgeon with a roster full of experience, talent and players who know how to win. Jordan, the highest-ranked recruit in school history, will give the Aggies a new dimension as well. Still, it's hard not to imagine them taking a step back from a school-record 27-win season. Law was a difference-maker, and Gillispie is one of the nation's top coaches. Consider that the team will be playing an upgraded schedule, which includes home dates with Alabama and LSU and a road trip to Arizona, and we think they'll make the NCAA Tournament. But we don't think they'll make it past the second round.
Shoes to Fill
G Acie Law. One of the greatest players in school history will be sorely missed, especially down the stretch in tight games. He was one of the best clutch shooters in the college game during his career.
Must Step Up
G Dominique Kirk. The Aggies have to figure out a way to make up for Law's 18.1 points a game. Sloan will take care of some of it, but Kirk -- who hasn't averaged more than 7.2 ppg -- needs to raise his scoring average into double figures. A 16-point performance in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, followed by a career-high 21-point outing, shows he is capable.
C DeAndre Jordan. The Aggies need to take advantage of this 7-foot lefty immediately. He could make the jump to the NBA next summer.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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