Alabama will open the SEC schedule at home against the Aggies. This will be the first of two games between the two programs, as Alabama will later travel to College Station for the final game of the regular season on March 7th. A&M won the only match-up between the two last season by a score of 63-48. Like Alabama, the Aggies didn't receive much love in the preseason standings as A&M is picked to finish 9th, just in front of our beloved Crimson Tide, who are picked to finish 10th. However, I think this A&M team is intriguing and could finish a bit higher.
For starters, they return 5 of their top 8 scorers from a year ago, including a steady senior in Kourtney Roberson (6'9, 247 lbs, 9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and, in my opinion, one of the more underrated players in the league in Alex Caruso (6'5, 184 lbs, 9.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.0 spg). Jalen Jones (6'7, 223 lbs) is a potential impact transfer that was the leading scorer at SMU his sophomore year (14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg). His arrival should help improve an offense that finished 13th in the conference in scoring. If Houston transfer Danuel House (12.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is granted a waiver to play this season, that will give A&M even more firepower.
A familiar face to SEC basketball fans will also be joining the A&M coaching staff this season with Rick Stansbury joining Billy Kennedy's staff as an assistant coach. The hire seems to have already helped in recruiting as A&M currently has a monster class (rated top 5 by some) committed for 2015. It's been a slow start for Billy Kennedy in Aggieland, but the future seems very bright if you're an A&M basketball fan.
Conference openers are always important, but this one will be vital for Alabama as their opening conference schedule will feature 3 of their first 5 games on the road, and the other home game in that stretch is against a Kentucky team that could be a colossus in the SEC this season. With that kind of schedule, a slow start in conference play could be inevitable. Which means that this opener against A&M could be considered a must-win when January 6th arrives.