Texas A&M women's basketball will open its 2019-20 campaign with a preseason exhibition game against Oklahoma City University on Friday.
Entering the season, A&M is ranked No. 6 in the AP preseason poll behind Oregon, Baylor, Stanford, Maryland and Connecticut respectively. The Aggies finished 2018-19 at No. 14, but have the core of their squad returning this season as they look to build on last year's NCAA tournament run to the Sweet 16.
"We have got the pieces; it's just up to us to deliver," A&M coach Gary Blair said. "Yes, we got beat in the Sweet 16 last year, but eight other teams [also] got beat. How much better are those eight that got beat just like us? How about those eight that won and went on to the Final Four? It doesn't matter if you have 94, 95 percent of your scoring back [from last season], is it good enough to go to that next level?"
Junior guard Chennedy Carter will return for the Aggies after leading the SEC in scoring with an average of 23.3 points per game last season. Carter was named an AP Preseason All-American on Thursday.
"I'm very excited to get out there and play," Carter said.
Following the announcement that A&M had been ranked No. 6 in the nation, Blair said he has high expectations for his team this season.
"I love a single-digit number versus one that has two digits in it,” Blair said. “My favorite number was four all my life. That’s my goal, to always get to the Final Four. Right now, we shouldn’t be listed in the top four. We should be about where we are listed — one of the many good teams that are out there. Now, let's try to live up to it. Let's work every day to get there."
Unfortunately for the Aggies, they have been battling with some injuries during training camp and Blair said he hopes it does not hinder the team's development as a squad.
"Two weeks ago, I would say we were 40 to 50 percent better [than last year],” Blair said. “But it's been slow getting N'dea Jones back from hamstring. She played very limited in the scrimmage yesterday. That's 11-and-a-half rebounds and seven points a ball game. And no one spent more time in the gym in the spring and summer than Jones, trying to increase her versatility to add to her offense. We’re missing her right now, and particularly on the boards. But you cannot rush a hamstring."
A&M's quest for a national championship will start against an Oklahoma City University squad that has had consistent success, reaching the NAIA Final Four every year. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. on Friday at Reed Arena.