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. Things have changed this year as the Wildcats destroyed the Aggies 100-58 at Rupp Arena. While Kentucky seems to be closing in on a two or three seed, the Aggies appear to be NIT bound at 16-13.
According to Jerry Palm, the Aggies have an RPI ranking of #83 and are just 1-11 versus top 50 teams. Their biggest win was against #35 Virginia Tech. Their worst loss is against #67 Tennessee.
However, the Aggies are a team that Kentucky has struggled with on the road in the Calipari era. He is just 2-1 on the road, and all three of these games have gone into overtime.
Will history repeat itself with a tough game? Or will the Wildcats roll to another SEC title? Let's meet the Aggies.
#3 G - ADMON GILDER (SO, 6'4, 198) 13.5 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.9 RPG
#5 G - JC HAMPTON (SR, 6'1, 192) 7.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.9 APG
#44 F - ROBERT WILLIAMS (FR, 6'9, 237) 11.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.4 APG
#10 F/C - TONNY TROCHA-MORELOS (JR, 6'10, 224) 8.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.9 APG
#34 C - TYLER DAVIS (SO, 6'10, 270) 14.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.5 APG
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 62.8% of his shots and is a nice defensive presence. He is always a double-double threat, but Kentucky kept him under control at Rupp. He had 13 points and just two rebounds.
Tonny Trocha-Morelos can stretch the floor a little bit but takes too many three-pointers as he hits just 27.5% of them, as compared to 37% last year. He needs to get stronger and tends to disappear offensively at times. Four-star freshman Robert Williams has been solid as a starter, replacing DJ Hogg, who was lost for the season. He is a tenacious rebounder and has a nice scoring touch, hitting 55.7% of his shots. He also averages 2.6 blocks a game and has made a nice transition from the bench to starter.
Admon Gilder distributes the ball well but averages 2.8 turnovers a game. He hits 39.3% of his three-pointers but 43.8%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 42.4% of his three-pointers. He also takes good care of the ball and rarely turns it over.
#42 F - TAVARIO MILLER (SR, 6'8, 227) 3.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.2 APG
#2 F - ERIC VILLA (FR, 6'11, 206) 2.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.9 APG
#33 G - CHASE CARLTON (SO 6'1, 186) 0.2 PPG, 0.4 RPG, 1.0 APG
#12 G - CHRIS COLLINS (SO, 6'3, 183) 1.5 PPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 RPG
With Williams in the starting lineup, this is a very thin bench. Tavario Miller is inconsistent in his scoring and has over two points just once in his last five games. He hits 48.7% of his shots but averages just 2.6 attempts a game. 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 27.3% of his three-pointers and 30.6% overall.
Any scoring that the Aggies get from Chase Carlton and Chris Collins is a bonus as this is a very thin team in the backcourt and struggling to find their identity. Carlton has zero points in his last three games in which he played 29 minutes. Collins has not scored in his last nine appearances, which has spanned 102 minutes.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
While this is a team that Kentucky should beat rather easily, the Aggies are still a pretty good team on their home court, and they have given some of the tougher teams on their schedule problems. This 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. Since the Kentucky game, they lost to then-ranked #18 West Virginia by just four points on the road and by 9 to Florida. And as the saying goes, this is going to be the Aggies Super Bowl.
The Aggies play tough defense, and they allow just 67.8 points a game and they play good interior defense, They have a rebounding margin of 5.6 boards a game and allow their opponents to shoot just 40.3% a game.
With the loss of Hogg, this is a team that has struggled to score. They have just three players in double-digits, and this is not a team that will go on a three-point barrage. They hit just 33.6% of their three-pointers.
In the end, this is just a horrible game for matchups for the Aggies. Kentucky simply has too much talent at every position and a much better bench. This was a team that was already thin in the backcourt before the loss of Hogg, and that weakened them even more. Granted, you can bet that the Aggies will probably play one of their better games as a team and this is a Kentucky team that has still not learned to play a full forty minutes, so don't be shocked if this game is closer than expected. There is a level of revenge here after being blown out by 42 points for the Aggies.
In the end, I do think that Kentucky's depth and firepower will be too much for the Aggies system. And I am probably one of the few Kentucky fans that do not mind that this Wildcats team has been getting tested recently. I like that this is a team that can play badly for 15 minutes, get in a hole and then win going down the stretch. I don't think this game will be as drama filled as the last few games however and expect the Wildcats to clinch the SEC Title with an 85-68 win on the road.