In this Big 12 vs. SEC showdown, it is the best of one conference against the worst of the other. It was not supposed to work out that way when the matchups were announced, yet it has.
Kansas is in first place in the Big 12, nothing new there. However, Texas A&M played like a team ready to be a SEC contender in November. The Aggies were throttled by injuries and suspension starting in late December and lost their first five conference contests. Wins over Mississippi and Missouri gave the appearance Texas A&M has turned the corner, but lost at LSU by 12 as two-point favorites, leaving them tied in the SEC basement with Vanderbilt.
The college basketball odds have Kansas as 7.5-point home favorites. The Jayhawks should fly by Texas A&M as long as the push the ball and avoid a plodding contest. Here is what both teams bring to this nonconference clash.
Texas A&M Has Lost Chemistry
After 12-1 start, Texas A&M (13-7, 7-10 ATS) has lost their way. The confidence and conviction the Aggies played with early has given way to uncertainty. Texas A&M has talented players in the frontcourt like Robert Williams, Tyler Davis and DJ Hogg, but none of these players is truly accomplished at generating their own offense. This is where the Aggies guards have not played well or with consistency.
Coach Bill Kennedy's squad should have defeated LSU at home and later at Kentucky, but at crunch-time, they could not execute and lost both those games by a point. The A&M backcourt will have to play at a much higher level to compete with Kansas on the road.
Kansas Has To Exert Will To Win and Cover
Kansas (16-4, 10-9 ATS) enters this contest off a loss at Oklahoma. The Jayhawks were poised to win, but Sooners coach Lon Kruger deployed - Hack-a-Shaq - strategy on Kansas big man Udoka Azubuike and it worked. Azubuike missed six free throws down the stretch and the Jayhawks never recovered, losing 85-80 as two-point road underdogs. Coach Bill Self took the blame for putting Azubuike in that position, but he will need his 7-0 sophomore to compete with the Aggies size.
Where Kansas can exploit Texas A&M is with guards Devonte Graham and Malik Newman. Graham has been a rock all season, while Newman has started taking better shots and scored 20 or more points in three of his last five games. Add in the more consistent contributions of second-leading Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and the Jayhawks could be tough to stop at Allen Fieldhouse.
Big 12/SEC Showdown Winner
This contest starts at around 4:30 Eastern on ESPN and I had completely different numbers than the oddsmakers. My forecasted numbers were Kansas -10 to -12 points. However, for my college basketball picks, I will side with Kansas at only -7.5, believing their guards will be too quick and overwhelm Texas A&M's backcourt. Rock Chalk Jayhawk 74-64.