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Preview: Texas A&M vs. Kentucky

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The 8th-ranked Wildcats visit Reed Arena for an early tip on national television (6:00pm; ESPN)

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NCAA Basketball: Florida at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Time: Tuesday at 6:00pm

Place: Reed Arena

TV: ESPN

Advanced Metrics via KenPom: Texas A&M has a 28% chance to win

Vegas Line: Kentucky is favored by 8 points

Results of Note

The Wildcats have a two game lead in the SEC and they’ve won six straight. That includes two recent wins over LSU and Florida that granted them said breathing room.

They’re hitting their late-season form, and that ugly three-loss non conference run is a long forgotten memory.

Things to Watch

Aside from the obvious talent disparity (it IS Kentucky, after all), there are actually some positive signs in the weeds.

First, the Cats aren’t particularly ruthless on the glass. That’s our biggest weakness, and it’s gotten worse in the past two weeks... but they don’t appear primed to exploit it. They will often run three guards that are 6-3 or shorter, and their rebounding metrics don’t quite line up with the massive Kentucky teams of days gone by. I shudder to think what Anthony Davis or Karl Anthony Towns would do tonight... but they aren’t here (whew!).

Second, Kentucky isn’t overly deadly from beyond the arc. They settle for the least amount of threes in the SEC (only 24.6% of all attempted field goals), and only two of their contributors have cleared the 30% mark for the season. By contrast, we force more threes than anyone in the nation, as opponents fire away from deep on almost half (49.7%) of their field goal attempts. That battle — the mental tug-of-war that governs access to the paint — that’s the battle I’m watching tonight.

Finally... I hope this 10 day shooting surge continues, because we’re not going to get much near the basket. Despite their three-guard lineup, Kentucky leads the SEC defensively in FG% against, and they’re second in block rate. They’re incredibly athletic, and they contest everything. I’m a little surprised that athleticism hasn’t led to more turnovers, however, as the Cats rank near the bottom of the conference in steals and turnover rate.

Overall Thoughts

Honestly, it could be worse.

When I fired up my research, I was expecting to see a series of facts that all but confirmed a rough evening. Instead... I found a path to victory.

Kentucky’s relative weaknesses (rebounding, forcing turnovers, and outside shooting) merge nicely with some of the things we do well. If we control the tempo, protect the paint, and continue shooting well... we can pull this off.

We’ve got nothing to lose tonight, gang. BTHO Kentucky.

Ticket Information

Reed Arena will be full, one way or another. Hit the link below to put as much maroon in the building as possible.

Texas A&M vs. Kentucky tickets