Wade Taylor IV, No. 15 Texas A&M welcome early hype

Texas A&M last experienced a heightened level of preseason buzz more than a decade ago but head coach Buzz Williams’ fifth season and an experienced roster has the Aggies thinking big.

No. 15 Texas A&M opens the season at home against Texas A&M-Commerce on Monday in College Station.

This is the highest preseason ranking in the Associated Press poll for A&M since it entered the 2006-07 season ranked No. 13 under Billy Gillispie.

The preseason hype isn’t surprising. The Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament last season, and return almost all of their roster including junior point guard Wade Taylor IV. Taylor is coming off a standout sophomore season, and is the SEC preseason player of the year.

Along with Taylor, fellow guard Tyrece Radford is a player with high expectations. The “super senior” is coming off an impressive season in which he started every game and earned second-team All-SEC honors.

“We do have a lot of returning players,” Williams said at the SEC Media Days. “But we’re also arguably playing the toughest non-conference schedule that A&M has ever played. We don’t have much wiggle room to give away possessions at any point. We play eight games in November, five of them are on the road.”

The Aggies do have a notable non-conference slate, including the second game of the season at Ohio State on Nov. 10 and a road game at Virginia in the ACC/SEC Challenge. They also are scheduled to face Houston on Dec. 16 at the Toyota Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

However, the opener against A&M-Commerce is expected to be a tuneup for the Aggies. The Lions are entering just their second season playing at the Division I level. They went 13-20 last season in their inaugural season as members of the Southland Conference.

A&M-Commerce coach Jaret von Rosenberg said he would have graded himself with a “B-minus” in how last season went during an interview on ESPN+ at the Southland Conference Media Day.

“There were some opportunities I think I could’ve done a much better job in, just preparation stuff,” said von Rosenberg, who is entering his seventh season. “Every year has adversity. Hopefully we can stay healthy. We really like the group we have. We return a lot of firepower from last year.”

A couple notable players returning are forward Jerome Brewer Jr., who averaged 8.2 points, and guard Tommie Lewis, who averaged 8.0 points. As a team, the Lions are coming off a season in which they averaged 71.6 points per game and allowed an average of 73.4 points.

A&M, meanwhile, averaged 72.8 points per game while allowing 66.5 points last season.

As far as history is concerned, this will mark just the fifth meeting between the schools on the hardwood. The last time these two teams played was Dec. 12, 1979. The Aggies lead the all-time series 3-1 with every game being played in College Station.