Having arrived in February, it is hard to believe for those placing daily college basketball picks that Texas A&M sits atop the Southeastern Conference standings, not Kentucky, Florida or LSU.
However, for this college buckets season this makes perfect sense and the Aggies will look to keep sole possession of first place traveling to Nashville to face Vanderbilt in a 7:00 Eastern encounter on ESPN2.
Texas A&M is ranked 8th in the country and its only loss in SEC action (7-1, 3-4-1 ATS) was hardly a bad one, at Arkansas eight days ago by 74-71 score. Vanderbilt is only 5-6 in their last 11 contests and not performed well against better competition. Can the Commodores make some sweet music in the ‘Music City’ or do the Aggies continue to prove they the best in the conference?
Coach Billy Kennedy has always been one to stress defense and it shows with this group, ranked first in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing just 64.1 per contest, with 39.8 percent accuracy. For fans of advanced statistics, the Aggies as of last night were listed third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com.
Eight players for Kennedy see 18 or more minutes a contest and they are not just warm bodies. Each has a particular skill set which fills out this Texas A&M puzzle and a very important aspect is three players are seniors. One is leading scorer Jalen Jones at the forward, averaging 16.7 PPG, along with point guard Alex Caruso, who dishes out 5.2 assists a game and adds 7.8 PPG. The other fourth-year stud is forward Danuel House, who is the second-leading scorer and rebounder next to Jones (16.0) and who can mix it up on the defensive end.
This is rugged and tough-minded crew and it is no accident they are 18-3 (8-6-2 ATS) this season.
Coming into the season, if a team was going to unseat Kentucky and win the SEC, Vanderbilt (12-9, 9-10 ATS) was supposed to be that club. With two 7’0 footers (plus another off the bench) and excellent three-point shooting, the Commodores were being thought of as Sweet 16 team come March.
In Maui just before Thanksgiving, they looked the part, having reached the finals before falling to Syracuse 74-67. In spite of the talented big men and being in the Top 15 in the country knocking down the three-ball at 40.1 percent, Vandy is already a bubble team and needs a victory in a contest like this.