As other SEC basketball programs feared, Texas A&M got its man.
Buzz Williams is coming from Virginia Tech to replace Billy Kennedy as head coach, so the Aggies should become a much more consistent NCAA Tournament contender.
Williams is one of the nation's top coaches, a total package. And like Cuonzo Martin at Missouri, he moved back into his prime recruiting zone.
Martin will have five key players from the St. Louis area on next year's team: Mark Smith, Javon Pickett, Jeremiah Tilmon, Torrence Watson and newcomer Mario McKinney.
Williams, a native Texan, served as an Aggies assistant coach during Billy Gillispie's successful era. He has strong recruiting ties in Texas, most notably Houston, so he will do work in the Lone Star State.
Both coaches will recruit nationally, of course, but it's nice to have a recruiting foundation to build upon.
"My family & I are overwhelmed with thankfulness and honored to return home to Texas A&M," Williams said via Twitter.
Writing for the Dallas Morning News, Ben Baby had this take:
When Williams is officially introduced to the public at 4 p.m. Thursday at Reed Arena, the first 2,000 fans will receive a commemorative T-shirt. That total might be slightly lower than the number of people who actually watched some of Billy Kennedy's final games this season. A&M was last in the SEC in every major attendance category. Reed Arena was only 55.9 percent full last year. A&M's average attendance was 7,255.
But that number might not tell the full story. When asked in mid-March for the number of scanned tickets for A&M's home conference games, A&M said the figures weren't available. Despite multiple inquiries, the athletic department provided no official explanation.
The fan base's overwhelming response to Williams' hire showed why A&M needed to switch coaches.
The Van Alstyne native seemed like a coup for Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward even before Williams' latest run in the NCAA tournament. Virginia Tech reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967 and almost knocked out top-seeded Duke. It was a fitting way to end a massive turnaround.
An outstanding basketball conference got even better with this high-profile hire.
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES
Here is what folks are writing about the Final Four:
Dan Wolken, USA Today: "The absolute best version of Duke’s lottery pick-laden team revealed itself on the opening night of the season and spent the next 37 games trying unsuccessfully to reach the same level. Over an eight-day stretch in mid-February, Kentucky was probably the best team in college basketball, taking down then-No. 1 Tennessee by 17 points and beating Auburn by 27, raising hopes for a Final Four appearance that never came. Within hours of each other on Sunday, two of the sport’s iconic programs and the top purveyors of building teams around the highest-ranked recruits, were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by teams with experienced guards and generally more mature rosters. As a consequence, we now have a Final Four with matchups that sound more appropriate for a Belk Bowl than a basketball tournament: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech, Auburn vs. Virginia. While a non-traditional Final Four has its own kind of appeal, Sunday’s outcome seemed to invite a larger conversation about whether it’s more likely to go deep in college basketball’s postseason tournament with older players instead of younger ones."
Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports: "If you want one unifying element to this Final Four, it’s this: There are four veteran teams headed to Minneapolis. This follows the pattern of 2016-18, when the Final Fours (and national champions) were dominated by experienced teams. It will be the case in 2019 as well. In direct refutation of where the hype and attention have been centered for the last decade of college basketball, we are now in Year 4 of old guys ruling the sport. The last of the 2018 star freshmen were dismissed after a 3-point jumper by a 22-year-old, fifth-year senior who walked on at Michigan State. Kenny Goins dispatched Duke and its transcendent one-and-done superstar, Zion Williamson, plus his three first-year sidekicks R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. Watching the Blue Devils seize up offensively — and fail to put the game in the hands of Williamson — showed not only their youth but Mike Krzyzewski’s inability to wallpaper over his team’s weaknesses as defenses progressively shifted toward stopping Zion. The highest-rated recruiting class in history fell short against a team that got just four of its 68 points from its freshman class."
Rodger Sherman, The Ringer: "In 2015 the University of Arkansas–Little Rock took a chance on (Chris) Beard, giving him his first Division I coaching job. The year before, the Trojans had finished 8-12 in the Sun Belt and ranked 288th in adjusted defensive efficiency. In Beard’s lone season in charge of the Trojans, they were 33rd in adjusted defense—the largest year-over-year jump in the history of KenPom—and went 30-5, making the NCAA tournament and upsetting fifth-seeded Purdue 85-83 in double overtime. UNLV hired Beard in the wake of that impressive turnaround, but the Texas Tech job came open three weeks later, presenting Beard with the opportunity to return to the school where he’d served as an assistant earlier in his career. He ditched UNLV—awkward, but understandable—and then proved that his performance at Little Rock wasn’t some small-league fluke."
Reid Forgrave, CBSSports.com: "This Texas Tech team is one of the best stories of this college basketball season. They looked good early on, with solid wins over USA, Nebraska and Memphis, before giving Duke and Zion Williamson fits during a pre-Christmas loss at Madison Square Garden. They ripped through the Big 12 season, sharing with Kansas State the regular season Big 12 title (and ending Kansas' reign at the top). They did it in the grittiest way possible. Texas Tech basketball may not always be pretty. But it's always a tight-knit team, with a historically good defense."
Emily Caron, SI.com: "Defense just might be able to win championships—if you’ve got the right balance. Between Virginia and Texas Tech, two of the country’s top three defensive teams are heading to the Final Four, but they also boast a hoard of talented two-way players to keep their offenses afloat. Even while Kyle Guy, the Cavaliers’ leading scorer, was struggling through a shooting slump in the first three games of the tournament, Virginia walked away with wins as his teammates stepped up. Tony Bennett has enough depth on his bench to navigate two more wins."
"I need to validate it for me, I don't need to validate it for them. I have my own goals and dreams and I have my own aspirations of what I want to do. What I want to do is put Michigan State University in rare air."
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, to MLive.com, on his thirst for a national title.