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Preview: Texas A&M vs. #14 Kentucky

The first place Kentucky Wildcats are in town, and they are playing their best basketball of the year. This one's gonna be tough.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Boy, did we ever need that streak-breaking win on Tuesday. The individual performances were rather muted, but our team-wide execution on both ends of the floor was simply too much for the Rebels.

Let's hope the good guys can carry that momentum forward, because the Wildcats are absolutely on fire right now.

Consider the most recent three games for each squad:

Date Texas A&M Kentucky
2/16 - 2/18 Ole Miss win 71-56 Tennessee win 80-70
2/13 @ LSU loss 71-76 @ South Carolina win 89-62
2/9 - 2/10 @ Alabama loss 62-63 Georgia win 82-48

Texas A&M recap: Almost stole a game we didn't deserve at Bama, played much better in a loss at LSU, and continued to play better in a home win over Ole Miss.

Kentucky recap: Destruction of Georgia at home, utter domination at South Carolina during the most hyped Gamecock home game in years, and an easy victory over Tennessee that was not nearly as close as the score indicated.

We have enough talent win to win this game regardless of how well Kentucky plays, but all signs point to this being the toughest game of the season.

Let's break it down.


Meet the Wildcats

First, a quick note... Kentucky will be without at least one (and maybe two) of their key contributors down low.

Alex Poythress (6'8" Senior) - A senior contributing at Kentucky? This relic of a bygone era can finish around the rim and is the 'Cats most tenacious rebounder. Almost certain to not play tomorrow.

Marcus Lee (6'9" Junior) - Leads the team in blocks and field goal percentage. Tends to be a feast or famine player - there aren't too many 'in between' efforts here. Injured in yesterday's game, tomorrow's status uncertain.

Now... the guys we will certainly see.

Tyler Ulis (5'9" Sophomore) - Leads the team (and conference) in assists, but still averages over 16 points a game. Dropped 27 points with 12 assists in the massacre at South Carolina. The best point guard in the SEC, and a surefire 1st-team selection.

Jamal Murray (6'5" Freshman) - Leads the team in scoring. 21/37 from behind the arc in his last four, which is good for 28+ PPG. Literally has the blue NBA JAM 'team fire' flame right now. Leads the SEC in three pointers made. Leave him open at your peril.

Isaiah Briscoe (6'3" Freshman) - The ultimate 'glue' guy. Can't shoot to save his life, but will fill up the stat sheet every way he can. Leaving him open is far less perilous.

Derek Willis (6'9" Junior) - Has stepped into Poythress' role and absolutely owned it. He doesn't provide an inside presence on offense, but he makes up for it with fantastic outside shooting. Had 25 points with seven threes in Thursday's win over Tennessee.

Skal Labissiere (6'11" Freshman) - Billed to be "the next amazing Kentucky big man..." and it hasn't exactly played out that way. Struggles to see the floor in big moments, but will likely be pressed into service due to injury.

The Intangibles

Honestly, the intangibles are set up for us to succeed. Kentucky will be without at least one (if not two) of their key big men, and they came to town on the heels of an insanely quick turnaround (having played Tennessee on Thursday night).

Meanwhile, the Ags have kicked their heels up for the past three days. Hosting Ole Miss meant no pesky mid-week travel, and playing that game on Tuesday gave us an additional 48 hours of rest. We're rested, healthy, and ready to go.

Sidebar: I really, really wish we could have seen a Reed Arena sans losing streak. We'll get a good crowd, but I have to imagine Big Blue Nation has jumped on a ton of tickets over the past three weeks. I'm guessing the atmosphere looks a lot like last year, where Kentucky fans make up a solid 25-30% of the crowd. What could have been.

Final Prediction

I think the question is simple: Is Marcus Lee playing at full strength? If so, I think Kentucky takes this one. But if he's out and a tired Kentucky is suddenly without their two big guys, Texas A&M will get it done.

College GameDay is in town, y'all. Get excited, get to Reed, and BTHO UK.