|Texas A&M starts season with high hopes against New Orleans|
Texas A&M, arguably one of the most underrated teams in the nation, will finally begin its delayed 2020-21 campaign on Sunday afternoon when it hosts New Orleans in College Station, Texas.
The Aggies, who went 16-14 and tied for sixth in the loaded Southeastern Conference after going 10-8 in league play last season, return three starters in coach Buzz Williams' second campaign in the Brazos Valley.
New Orleans already has a game under its belt, falling to BYU on the road 86-61 on Thanksgiving.
The Aggies won five of their final seven games and were best when things were close, capturing nine of their 11 contests over the campaign that were decided by six points or fewer. Texas A&M was picked to finish 11th in the 14-team SEC in this year's league preseason poll.
Williams said he expects this year's team to be just as gritty and hard-working and said the Aggies will be much better than predictions. Texas A&M returns six players who were in the regular rotation last year.
"My favorite thing about this team right now is just how hard our returning guys have worked, relative to incorporating the new kids," Williams said. "The returning guys have much more of an understanding of what we're trying to accomplish and so being able to watch them try to explain it in their words and be the teammates that we want them to be has been great."
Guard Savion Flagg returns for his senior season and is the Aggies' leading returning scorer after averaging 10.4 points a year ago.
Texas A&M fortified its frontcourt during the offseason with the addition of graduate transfer Kevin Marfo, who led the nation in rebounding last season while playing for Quinnipiac. A double-double machine, Marfo tallied 17 a season ago, averaging 10.2 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.
The Privateers (0-1) forced BYU into 18 turnovers in their season-opening loss, but couldn't sustain an early lead in the game. Damion Rosser and Lamont Berzat scored 15 points apiece to lead New Orleans, with Rosser also taking nine rebounds in defeat.
Senior guard Troy Green, a preseason all-Southland Conference pick, is New Orleans' top returning scorer after hitting for 14.6 points per game last year. Rosser, a junior guard, averaged a career-high 11.3 points in seven games before getting injured in 2019 and helps give the Privateers a dynamic starting backcourt.
"Our perimeter group has worked extremely hard in the offseason to make strides in their skill sets," said New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger, who is in his 10th season in the Big Easy. "Having a core group of older and experienced guards has been great and it's been special to see their growth."
New Orleans was picked to finish eighth in the Southland preseason poll following an injury-riddled season in which it was forced to field 15 different starting-lineup combinations.
--Field Level Media