Aggies hope brutal non-conference slate pays dividends in conference

Give Coach Jerry Eaves and his North Carolina A&T basketball team some credit. For a mid-major program, the Aggies have played an early season schedule that has been nothing short of brutal. While the wins haven’t been plentiful, the Aggies have gained some valuable experience as they enter the bulk of their conference schedule a week from this Saturday at home against Morgan State.

This Aggie team is only a few years removed from some of the worst in school history but the feeling around the program is that things are headed in the right direction under Eaves leadership and this “baptism by fire” approach to scheduling will instill a toughness in this squad that will make them hard for other MEAC teams to handle. Building on last year’s 15-17 overall record, the Aggies aim to improve their 10-8 conference record this season.

Look at this non-conference schedule in November & December – St. Louis (@ Pittsburgh), at Pittsburgh, at DePaul, at Tennessee, at Missouri, at Akron, at Miami and at Washington State. Are you kidding me? That is a schedule a lot of ACC teams would choke on.

A&T did manage one upset in the mix when the Aggies beat DePaul in Chicago 96-93 behind a 40 point effort from former Greensboro Day School standout Steven Rush.

The Aggies will look to Rush, a senior, as well as Jason Wills, Austin Ewing and Thomas Coleman to carry the load. A&T has played one conference game already, dropping a close 82-76 decision at Norfolk State.

Look for the Aggies to make some noise in the conference in 2008 and maybe a return trip to the Big Dance come March. These early season tests should certainly pay nice dividends as the season unfolds.