Over the last few years, the Texas A&M Aggies have been a pretty good foil to John Calipari and even shared the SEC regular season title with the Wildcats last season. Kentucky has gone 4-2 against the Aggies in the last four years, but some of the games have been classics, including last season's SEC Tournament Final that went into overtime.
Four of the six games have actually gone to overtime, and the Aggies own a shocking win at Rupp Arena in 2013. However, this is a different Aggies team that will roll into Rupp.
Four starters graduated from that team, and the Aggies have the big shoes of Alex Caruso, Danuel House, and Jalen Jones to replace. The Aggies are young and have played well at times this year, but are coming off a 10 point home loss to Tennessee. Let's meet the Aggies.
#3 G - ADMON GILDER (SO, 6'4, 198) 12.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.3 RPG
#5 G - JC HAMPTON (SR, 6'1, 192) 6.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.2 APG
#1 F - DJ HOGG (SO, 6'9, 220) 13.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.7 APG
#10 F/C - TONNY TROCHA-MORELOS (JR, 6'10, 224) 8.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.8 APG
#34 C - TYLER DAVIS (SO, 6'10, 270) 14.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 APG
The Aggies have struggled to replace their guards from last season, so this is a team that has a lot of frontcourt talent and even start two players that can be considered centers. They are led by Tyler Davis, who Kentucky fans remember from his game-winning shot in overtime last year.
Davis is the top scoring option this year and has developed a nice 15-foot jumper to go with his post work. He hits 60.4% of his shots and is a nice defensive presence with 1.4 blocks a game. He still has areas to work on, as he turns the ball over too much and hits just 59.5% of his free throws, He also has been in foul trouble in four of his last five games.
Tonny Trocha-Morelos can stretch the floor a little bit but takes too many three-pointers as he hits just 27.6% of them, as compared to 37% last year. He needs to get stronger and tends to disappear offensively at times. DJ Hogg is a versatile athlete that can move over to the guard positions as well. He hits 39.2% of his three-pointers and is a pretty aggressive rebounder. He is also a pretty good passer for a big man.
Replacing Alex Caruso has been a challenge. Admon Gilder distributes the ball well but averages 2.6 turnovers a game. He hits 34% of his three-pointers but 47.1% overall. He is a solid defender and averages 2.0 steals a game. Lipscomb transfer JC Hampton will see most of his time at the point, allowing Gilder to play the two, but they can switch positions. He averaged 15.9 points at Lipscomb and is prone to have a big game occasionally. He scored 21 points against Denver and hits 40.5% of his three-pointers. He also takes good care of the ball and rarely turns it over.
#44 F - ROBERT WILLIAMS (FR, 6'9, 237) 10.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.3 APG
#42 F - TAVARIO MILLER (SR, 6'8, 227) 4.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.3 APG
#2 F - ERIC VILLA (FR, 6'11, 206) 3.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.2 APG
#23 G - CALEB SMITH (FR, 6'1, 178) 2.0 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.5 APG
#12 G - CHRIS COLLINS (SO, 6'3, 183) 0.9 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.6 PG
Four-star freshman Robert Williams has been solid off the bench. He is a tenacious rebounder and has a nice scoring touch, hitting 62.7% of his shots. He also averages 2.4 blocks a game in just 20.2 minutes a game. Tavario Miller is inconsistent in his scoring. In his last five games, he has 2, 9, 0, 3, and 9 points. He provides toughness and interior defense. Freshman Eric Villa was hailed as a sharpshooter from Spain, and he can play a couple of positions. He has struggled, hitting just 25% of his three-pointers and 30.6% overall.
Caleb Smith and Chris Collins do not provide a lot of scoring off the bench, and this could be a big advantage for the Wildcats as the Aggies are still thin in the backcourt and struggling to find their identity.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
While this is not the Aggies team of the last few years, it is still a team that can give the Wildcats some trouble as they have talent. Three of their four losses have been to ranked teams, and they have all been fairly close. They lost 65-63 to then ranked #22 Southern California, 74-67 to #2 UCLA and 67-63 to Arizona. The recent loss to Tennessee was a headscratcher, but you can bet that the Aggies will be ready for this game.
The Aggies play tough defense, and they allow just 64.6 points a game and they play good interior defense, They have a rebounding margin of 5.9 boards a game and allow their opponents to shoot just 38.5% a game.
The Aggies do have four players that average in double digits, but this is not a game of good matchups for them. Tyler Davis is playing very well for them, but I do not see him able to control Bam Adebayo inside if John Calipari continues to turn him loose.
The same goes with the individual matchups in the backcourt as Fox and Monk are just playing at another level right now. That's not to say that this will be a blowout though as Pat Kennedy teams really don't rely on star power and if his team plays their system, this can be a good game.
In the end, I do think that Kentucky's depth and firepower will be too much for the Aggies system. Keep in mind this is still a young Texas A&M team, and their first visit to Rupp Arena can be a bit awe-inspiring. I think that the Wildcats are focused and realize that they have to show up every game and should win going away. Let's call it 88-73 for Kentucky.