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KENTUCKY SUDDENLY LOOKING LIKE CHAMPIONS, AS TEXAS A&M INEXPLICABLY FALLS OFF THE MAP!

Just a few weeks ago...Saturday's huge SEC showdown between #14 Kentucky and recent conference leader Texas A&M was shaping up to be the real proving ground for the Aggies. Sure, they were sitting atop the conference, thanks partly to a disappointing start from Kentucky. But, could A&M win under the bright spotlight when John Calipari's talented group came to visit (Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)?

Now, the roles have completely reversed. Kentucky is playing GREAT...and has to prove that they're capable of traveling to the Western hinterlands of the SEC to win on the road.

It's too bad we couldn't get this game when BOTH teams were playing great at the same time! Recent highlights and lowlights...

KENTUCKY'S RECENT HIGHLIGHTS
Kentucky (-2.5) won at Arkansas 80-66 (covered by 11.5 points)
Kentucky (-19.5) beat Missouri 88-54 (covered by 14.5 points)
Kentucky (+5.5) took Kansas to overtime (covered by 5.5 points in regulation)
Kentucky (-7) beat Florida 80-61 (covered by 12 points)
Kentucky (-13) beat Georgia 82-48 (covered by 21 points)
Kentucky (-2) won at South Carolina 89-62 (covered by 25 points)

We did leave out the road loss at Tennessee that come right after that Kansas heartbreaker (the Wildcats lost in Lawrence in overtime after the 40-minute dead heat). Outside of that logical flat spot in Knoxville, Kentucky has been on fire. That's five double digit covers since things started to click. And, it's not like Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are pushovers! Kentucky just beat them by 19, 34, and 27 points at an average market price near -7.

TEXAS A&M'S RECENT LOWLIGHTS
Texas A&M (-3) lost at Arkansas 74-71 (missed the mark by 6 points)
Texas A&M (+1.5) lost at Vanderbilt 77-60 (missed the mark by 15.5 points)
Texas A&M (-9.5) lost to South Carolina 81-78 (missed the mark by 12.5 points)
Texas A&M (-4.5) lost at Alabama 63-62 (missed the mark by 5.5 points)
Texas A&M (+2) lost at LSU 76-71 (missed the mark by 3 points)

We did leave out a strong showing at home vs. Iowa State early in that run...and then the most recent game against helpless Missouri. It's not like the Aggies have played nothing but horrible basketball the past few weeks. It's just been mostly horrible basketball. Note also how many of the same opponents keep showing up. Kentucky crushed the Vanderbilt team that embarrassed A&M. Kentucky crushed the South Carolina team that edged the Aggies.

You get the sense that Texas A&M needs to put up a brick wall NOW or their season is virtually over. Sure, they can limp into the Dance with their early season resume. But, they're not going to BEAT anybody who matters if their slump continues with a bad home loss to Kentucky.

Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about one of many showcase matchups this Saturday...

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 117.8 per 100 possessions (#9 in the nation)
Texas A&M: 110.7 per 100 possessions (#53 in the nation)

The efficiency stats come from the publicly available numbers posted by Ken Pomeroy at kenpom.com. Worth remembering here that Kentucky is playing much better the past few weeks than they had earlier in the season (as young guys started to get the hang of playing together), while Texas A&M's best days are long behind them. So, Kentucky's offense is A LOT better right now than the Aggies. If Kentucky keeps getting cheap baskets, they're going to run away and hide.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 95.5 per 100 possessions (#33 in the nation)
Texas A&M: 93.3 per 100 possessions (#15 in the nation)

Probably the key to the game. How far has Texas A&M fallen on this side of the floor? Its defense must put up that wall we talked about to block the flood of Kentucky scoring. Kentucky is still a disappointment relative to Calipari's most recent teams. He often has a top 10 defense. Handicap this category properly, and you've probably got the Las Vegas pointspread winner.

Pace Ranking
Kentucky: #196
Texas A&M: #185

Virtually identical in pace given how packed it is in the middle. Neither team will be taken out of a comfort zone in this matchup.

Against the Spread
Kentucky: 12-13
Texas A&M: 9-10-2

Both teams are just a game below the .500 mark...but obviously that's red hot Kentucky rising up after being extremely overrated out of the gate...and slumping A&M falling down after catching oddsmakers napping early. The tricky part here is that the number can't get anywhere near Kentucky's scoreboard when the Wildcats are playing well. They've been SOARING over the number since the pieces clicked into place.

If this game were in Lexington, JIM HURLEY might have been releasing a "Game of the Year" caliber selection in advance of Kentucky winning another one by at least 20. On the road, where the Wildcats have already lost at Tennessee and LSU, there's at least a bit of a question mark about how to play this one. Don't forget that Kentucky played host to Tennessee Thursday night while the Aggies were getting some extra rest. Plus, host A&M knows their season is virtually on the line here in terms of meaningful basketball down the stretch.

NETWORK'S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach is perfect for this kind of handicapping challenge. Our on-site sources will know the mindsets of each team. Our statheads will have crunched all the numbers. Our computer programmers have been running updated simulations since Tennessee/Kentucky ended Thursday night. If there's an edge to be exploited, customers will be cashing another BIG, JUICY WINNER!

You can always purchase JIM HURLEY'S BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours Friday or Saturday before the first games tipoff.

We'll spend a day in the NBA before getting back to the colleges. Here's what's on tap in the NOTEBOOK...

Sunday: Cleveland at Oklahoma City in the NBA (Lebron vs. Durant and Westbrook!)
Monday: Virginia at Miami in the ACC
Tuesday-Wednesday: Villanova at Xavier Wednesday in the Big East
Thursday-Friday: Cleveland at Toronto Friday in the NBA (Eastern Finals preview?)
Saturday: North Carolina at Virginia in the ACC
Sunday-Monday: Kansas at Texas Monday in the Big 12

A new blockbuster is tipping off every few minutes...go GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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