Texas A&M Aggies (11-4) at Kentucky Wildcats (12-3)
We won and covered again last night when we backed the Colgate Raiders against the Navy Midshipmen in a Patriot League affair. In these small conferences, the home team is always going to be your default pick as many of these smaller schools just don’t have the firepower to win true road games.
The game was a tight one as expected, and Colgate pulled away for the 70-62 win and covered the 4.5-point spread. If you aren’t following small conference college basketball, you are really giving up a lot of value. Today I will switch to a power five conference, as I break down a matchup in the SEC between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Texas A&M Aggies.
Texas A&M will travel to Lexington to play at Rupp Arena against the blue bloods of Kentucky, the Wildcats. The Aggies entered conference play ranked in the top ten in the country, and many looked at them as a candidate to knock off the perennial powerhouse Wildcats for the SEC crown. The Aggies now find themselves scratching their heads as they are 0-3 in conference play entering play tonight.
Kentucky is a perfect 10-0 at home this season and 2-1 in league play. The SEC is as good as it has ever been right now, and the Wildcats can ill afford to let a conference game slip past them, especially at home. Kentucky is -6-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 144 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from Rupp Arena.
The SEC is clearly a football conference. That was highlighted last night as the SEC played against the SEC for the football national championship. It would take a lot of success on the hardwood before the SEC would lose its reputation as just a football conference but with talent like they have this year, they are off to a good start.
Right now, the SEC is projected as having a record eight teams make the NCAA tournament this season! That is a huge upgrade for a league that has been powered almost exclusively by Kentucky and Florida over the last decade.
Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Tennessee are all currently slated into the field of 68. With Ole Miss, Missouri, Alabama, and South Carolina right outside, looking to break through. This is the best I have ever seen the conference, and every league game is going to be a big one.
Texas A&M is finding out just how good the SEC is this season as they are 0-3 in conference play. The Aggies looked like national title contenders just two weeks ago when they stood at 14-1 with quality wins over Penn State, USC, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia. Losses to LSU, Florida, and Alabama have the Aggie faithful wondering what in the heck is going on.
A&M has a balanced attack and pride themselves on the defensive end of the court. The Aggies are eighth in the nation blocking shots and second in the land in total rebounds per game. They are a good passing team as well with over seventeen assists a game. This team is well built and very talented, and the recent slide is very surprising to me. The Aggies will have their hands full tonight when they play a Kentucky that might just be hitting its stride.
The Kentucky Wildcats are always a threat to cut down the nets in March. Coach Cal always brings in top-level talent and can never be left out of the national title conversation. This year it feels like the Cats are down a little bit over recent campaigns, albeit not much. The Cats ran out to nine wins in their first ten games, but did it against some average at best competition.
The Cats have played a higher caliber of squad in their last five games, but only hold a 3-2 record in that span of games. Losses to UCLA and Tennessee overshadow great performances against Louisville and LSU. It will be very interesting to see where Kentucky ends up in the SEC standings this year as I don’t think they are the best team in the league and I would be shocked to see that undefeated at home record survive the rest of the season.
I try not to overreact to a small sample size of games. The Aggies struggles over the last two weeks are clearly concerning but are they still the same team that many had penciled into the Final Four just a few days ago? The answer, as is usually the case, is probably somewhere in the middle. They weren’t as good as that number four ranking they had, but they aren’t as bad as this recent 0-3 skid. If this game was held two weeks ago when the Aggies were flying high at 14-1 this number would have been much, much tighter. Likely in the 1-2-point range.
This line opened at Kentucky -7, and that was clearly a bad number, and the sharps jumped all over it and drove it down to first 6.5, and now 6 points. That number still feels a little high for a Kentucky team that doesn’t really have a great resume yet on the season. The Cats played a softer than usual schedule in the non-conference, and haven’t really been tested much this season. They played against a good Kansas team, but they lost that one.
To me, I see this game as a very close one. These teams are very evenly matched, and I would be shocked to see either team get up by double digits or more at any point. The SEC is such a strong league this year, and I am not sure I am ready to see Kentucky lay this level of wood against a good team like A&M. I am going to do my best to look at the whole body of work and not just the last two weeks and take the underdogs on the road tonight. Give me the Texas A&M Aggies plus six points tonight!