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Texas A&M’s non-conference slate includes NCAA tournament teams Baylor, Mercer

Jul 18, 2014, 4:29 PM EST

Billy Kennedy AP

After finishing the 2013-14 season with an 18-16 record and a spot in the CBI, Texas A&M is looking to take a step forward in 2014-14. Head coach Billy Kennedy is looking to lead the program to its first NCAA tournament since 2011, and he’ll look to do so with guard Alex Caruso and forward Kourtney Roberson being his most productive returnees.

Friday afternoon the program released its non-conference schedule, which will include an appearance in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and at least four games against programs that appeared in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Aggies will host Arizona State on December 6, with games against Baylor (December 9 in Waco), Kansas State (December 20 in Kansas City) and Mercer (December 30 in College Station) also on the schedule.

“This is one of the most difficult non-conference schedules Texas A&M basketball has faced in some time.” Kennedy said in the release. “I’ve really been impressed by the leadership, talent and maturity of this year’s team during the spring and summer workouts. It will be the best group since I’ve been here and we’re looking forward to the challenge of facing tough competition on the court.”

Three of the other seven teams in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which will be played November 20, 21 and 23 in San Juan, reached the NCAA tournament last season. UConn won the national title and Dayton reached the Elite Eight, with New Mexico also part of the 68-team field. The matchups for that event will be announced later this summer.

Unfortunately for the Aggies they’ll have to play without Houston transfer Danuel House, who averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore. The scoring average would have made House the leading scorer for a Texas A&M team that boasted just one double-digit scorer, forward Jamal Jones and he’s no longer a member of the program.

With the offensive issue the Aggies struggled with last season, ranking 13th in the SEC in points per game and 12th in field goal percentage, the opportunities for their four incoming freshmen (led by guard Alex Robinson) to earn quality playing time will be there.