By Jeff Goodman
Texas A&M, ranked 18th in one poll and 19th in the other, hardly looked the part of a Top 20 team on Thursday night.
There are multiple reasons.
The Aggies have been without their new head coach, Billy Kennedy, up until a week ago - and are also playing without their top player, Khris Middleton.
Is it unfair to judge this team right now?
"Yes and no," Texas A&M's Elston Turner said after the 69-60 loss to Mississippi State on Thursday night.
Turner said that with or without Middleton, who will likely miss the next couple of weeks after knee surgery, the defense must be upgraded.
"We miss him," Turner said. "And we can't wait until he comes back."
"When he does come back, you'll see a different team," he added.
Maybe one that can challenge Baylor, Kansas and Missouri for the the Big 12 title.
Realistically, freshman Jamal Branch may be the Aggies top option at the point. Starter and veteran Dash Harris struggled and was just 1-of-8 from the field with three assists and two turnovers. David Loubeau is a solid inside guy and Turner, a Washington transfer, gives the team a quality perimeter threat. There is no shortage of role guys.
But Middleton gives the Aggies a go-to guy, someone capable of going for 20 on any given night.
It's not just the absence of Middleton, who led the team in scoring last season. It's also the players trying to adapt to a new system - under a head coach that hasn't been around all that much after being diagnosed with early onset of Parkinson's Disease.
"It's going to take time," Kennedy said.