Save for the Kentucky Wildcats, the rest of the SEC is forever perceived to be up for grabs. Thanks to nearly every program in the league bringing in high-level, well-regarded coaches, that perception of the league — if it hasn’t already — will begin to change, too. The days of it being “Kentucky and everybody else” will go the way of the dinosaurs.
But which of those programs are best equipped to make a run as one of those upper echelon SEC annual world-beaters?
The Florida Gators have been in that position before, but Billy Donovan isn’t walking through that door. The Tennessee Volunteers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, even Auburn, and a plethora of other programs are doing well on the recruiting trail, making it feel like they can knock on the door sooner than we realize, too.
But most of those programs are still only in the idea phases of their builds. The idea of what each of them can potentially become. There happens to be a team, while not exactly soaked in success, that has a minuscule leg up on the competition — the Texas A&M Aggies.
To be clear: It isn’t that A&M is leaps and bounds better than any other non-Kentucky SEC program. It is that, under Billy Kennedy who will be entering his sixth-year at the helm this season, the foundation for success has already been partially built thanks to being done with the transition phase that is bringing in a new coach to a new school.
Oh, plus actual on the court success. More on that in a minute.
Kennedy has seen an entire recruiting class come and go. While the early portion of his A&M run was a mixed-bag, he wasn’t exactly taking over a dynasty. He has since built it into a more-than-respectable program, specifically designed to journey through the muddled SEC waters.
His success in doing so was certainly highlighted last season, as the Aggies not only won 28 games, but went dancing deep into the month of March, making it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.
That’s so yesterday, though. Fans are fickle, the media can be ill-tempered, and the world moves on. Whatever success A&M already had, it should most certainly get its fair share of credit for it, but it will mean nothing in the grand scheme of things if Kennedy and Co. can’t get success to beget itself.
This is where some of the good news comes in for A&M fans.
It appears as though Kennedy will lead the team to yet another good campaign this season, though this one should be a bit more mild in terms of making as much noise relative to last season’s stunning success.
Thing is, even removing the upcoming season from the “is A&M making that next step as a program” discussion, one can look at how Kennedy is doing on the recruiting trail to notice his pattern of success starting the begetting process.
Texas A&M’s 2016 recruiting class is pretty well stockpiled with everything a program would need to build for an even better tomorrow. Ranked as the 18th best class by 247Sports, with only two other SEC programs ranked ahead of them, the Aggies are bringing in three four-star players, two of those being ranked in the top-100, and a three-star prospect from Spain, Eric Vila, who can eventually develop into a rather dynamic forward for the program.
But wait, there’s more.
Admittedly, it is far too early to get that excited about it, but A&M again has the 18th best 2017 recruiting class. That position was solidified, if not improved by now, after the team landed three-to-four star prospect Isiah Jasey on Monday night.
Again, it is worth noting that a recruiting class as far away as 2017 remains very fluid, if not volatile, but Kennedy has clearly decided to not rest on his laurels and is looking to take his most recent success and parlay it into even bigger success down the road.
The question is no longer if A&M is a good basketball program, because it most certainly is. It’s just that the question has changed. It’s now about how great of a basketball program can be under Kennedy, and if nationally great on an annual basis, how long until they get there?
There’s no answer right now to that question. But at the pace the Aggies have been moving over the course of the last two seasons, while adding in a little positive projection, we’ll probably find out sooner rather than later — in a good way, too.
That is if the rest of the all of a sudden stockpiled with great coaches SEC doesn’t catch up first.