1. Sixth man turned star
The first two years of Josh Nebo’s collegiate career were spent playing for the Red Flash of St. Francis (PA) before transferring to spend the back half of his college career at Texas A&M. Last year, Nebo started just two games and was relegated to a six or seventh man for the Aggies. However, the improvement has been immense for Nebo from then until now, as he’s now the starting forward and best statistical player for Texas A&M.
The senior from Houston, Texas is the leading scorer and second-leading rebounder for Texas A&M, at 11.9 and 6.2 respectively. Measuring in at 6’9″ and 245 pounds, Nebo is an extremely solid post presence for the Aggies, ranking third in the Southeastern Conference in blocked shots. The main negative to Nebo’s game is his inability to play on the perimeter effectively. In two years at A&M, he’s attempted just one three and hits just 64.7% of his free throws. His back to the basket game is solid, but facing up should leave Nick Richards at a defensive advantage.
2. Scoring struggles
As evidenced by the leading scorer on the team only averaging 11.9 points per game, the entire Aggie lineup struggles to but the ball in the basket. Scoring 62.7 points per game as a team on the season, Texas A&M ranks 332nd in the country in overall scoring. The rest of the offensive ranks don’t look much better for Buzz Williams’ squad, as their national ranks are 333rd in effective shooting percentage, 331st in overall shooting percentage, 349th in three-point shooting, and 225th in two-point shooting.
On top of all those shooting percentages, Texas A&M is hitting just 69.1% of their free throws as a team, which is 237th in the country. The Aggies are the worst three-point shooting team in the SEC and make just 5 per game. The lack of shot making shows up elsewhere on the stat sheet as well, as A&M’s 10.8 assists are 315th in the country. Flat out, this is one of the worst overall offensive teams that Kentucky has faced this year. While they do seem to play a tad better at home than on the road, tonight should be a game in which Kentucky dominates defensively.
3. Three-game streak
For just the second time this season, Texas A&M is currently in the midst of a three-game winning streak. While it doesn’t seem to be saying a ton about the Aggies at this point, it is still worth noting that the last week and a half has been the best basketball that Texas A&M has played all season. The first winning streak of the season wasn’t worth writing home about, with the wins coming over Texas A&M Community College, Oregon State, and Texas Southern. However, the current streak is a tad more impressive, with a win over Georgia, at Alabama, and against Mississippi State.
Over that three-game span, the Aggies are averaging just over 78 points per game and hitting nearly 43% of their threes. Sustained success is yet to be determined, as the numbers I listed earlier for the national ranks of Texas A&M’s offense include this streak, but it is certain that this is better than the Aggies have looked all season. Tonight’s game against Kentucky may reveal if this is who the Aggies are now or if the numbers will begin to trend back to the mean for Texas A&M.
4. Lack of size leading to lack of rebounds
With 6’9″ Josh Nebo being the only real big for Buzz Williams, naturally a struggle to out-rebound teams follows suit. Just over 34 rebounds per game ranks 11th in the SEC and 215th in the country. On top of that, Texas A&M gives up just about 10 offensive rebounds per game, which is 314th nationally. A number like that opponent offensive rebound number coincides with A&M being 327th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage.
Nebo’s 6.2 rebounds is good for 14th in the conference, but Texas A&M typically relies on some smaller guards and forwards to help out with rebounding. The three tallest players on the roster for the Aggies are not contributors, and outside of Nebo, every other player on the roster who contributes is measured at 6’7″ or below. This is a game where the length, size, and athleticism of Kentucky should present a huge advantage in the rebounding columns.
5. Close calls
Since Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference, the Aggies have faced off with the Cats a total of 11 times. Kentucky is 8-3 in those games, pushing their overall lead in the series with Texas A&M to 10-4 all time. While that may seem like John Calipari has dominated the match up, this isn’t necessarily the case. Nearly every single game has been extremely close, with nine of the eleven games being decided by 12 points or fewer. Even more so, there have been five overtime periods in those eleven games, and Texas A&M even has a win at Rupp Arena over that span.
An opening spread of seven points may seem small for Kentucky against a 14-12 Texas A&M team, but you have to take a few things into account. History suggests that the games between the Cats and the Aggies are almost always close. Kentucky hasn’t really made it a habit of blowing teams out this season. This game is being played in College Station at Reed Arena and Texas A&M is playing their best basketball. While Kentucky should be able to take care of business tonight, it does have a small bit of the makings of a trap game. Sandwiched in between the big Florida win this past Saturday and a huge rematch with Auburn later in the week could spell a recipe for a sluggish start for the Cats.
Go Cats. Beat Aggies.