After trimming the nets in Reed Arena and celebrating Saturday’s SEC championship with players, Texas A&M men’s basketball coach Billy Kennedy said Monday that his players will get to enjoy the spoils of victory, albeit briefly, this week.
The Aggies (24-7, 13-5 in SEC), who climbed to No. 17 in Monday’s updated Associated Press poll, will rest their legs for a couple of days before honing in on Friday’s matchup in the SEC postseason tournament. A&M meets the winner of Thursday’s Arkansas-Florida game in Nashville.
“We’ll take a couple of days off and get ready for Friday,” Kennedy said while summing up an eventful weekend during Monday’s SEC coaches conference call. “Obviously, we’re thankful to be able to win a regular-season championship and excited about this week. At this level, it’s such a grind. That’s why winning a regular-season championship, to me, is the most difficult thing to do.”
A&M made that happen with Saturday’s 76-67 victory over Vanderbilt in College Station, allowing the Aggies to share the SEC title with No. 16 Kentucky (23-8, 13-5). For A&M, it marked the school’s first regular-season title in men’s basketball in 30 years. The Aggies shared the 1985-86 Southwest Conference title with Texas Tech.
We’re thankful to be able to win a regular-season championship and excited about this week. At this level, it’s such a grind. That’s why winning a regular-season championship, to me, is the most difficult thing to do.
Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M men’s basketball coach
Because A&M defeated Kentucky 79-77 in overtime in this year’s lone meeting between the schools, the Aggies will head into this week’s conference tournament as the SEC’s top seed. Kennedy, in his fifth season at the school, said claiming a league title has been “something we talked about this year and even right after I got the job” in a hire made by former A&M athletic director Bill Byrne.
“I’m thankful to be a part of such a special run, and I’m proud of our guys. We did it the way that I wanted to do it, with toughness and defense,” said Kennedy, whose squad allowed the fewest points per game (65.9 average) of any SEC team this season.
30 Years between conference basketball titles in SEC (2015-16) and SWC (1985-86) for Texas A&M.
The team’s primary rim protector, center Tyler Davis, received SEC freshman of the week honors Monday for the third time this season because of his strong play in Saturday’s title-clinching victory over Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-10 freshman from Plano West scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked three shots in the victory over the Commodores (19-12, 11-7), who will enter the SEC tournament as the league’s No. 5 seed.
Because nine of the SEC’s 14 teams finished with records of 9-9 or better in league play, Kennedy said A&M must show up strong in Nashville to maximize its seed in the NCAA Tournament when the 68-team bracket is announced Sunday. Most analysts have the Aggies projected as a No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament, based on their regular-season résumé.
Kennedy said the goal is to enhance that status in Nashville, rather than backtrack, in what he described as a “wide-open” conference tournament.
“There are so many teams that are capable of winning it,” Kennedy said. “It’s proven that anybody can beat anybody on any given night in this league.”