By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
The Cats have returned home from a two game road swing through Baton Rouge and Knoxville long enough to get clean laundry and pick up a game at Rupp against Texas A&M before heading back out on the road for another two game swing that will take the Cats through Nashville and Columbia, South Carolina.
After struggling at Rupp against Georgia in the SEC opener, the Cats fought from behind to get a tough 3-point road win in Baton Rouge. However, despite building an 8-point halftime lead over the Volunteers in Knoxville on Saturday night, the Cats were not up to the challenge that Tennessee would present in the second half.
You should recall that after an extremely strong non-conference pre-SEC season, Tennessee lost their first two conference games, at Arkansas and to Auburn in Knoxville. These two losses put the Volunteers clearly behind the 8 ball, and no one should be surprised by the intensity of their fight against the Cats to stop their hemorrhaging with a home win over the Cats.
However, it appeared that the Cats were surprised by it because they appeared totally unprepared to meet it with intensity and urgency of their own. The result was a mismatch of intensity that produced a mismatch on the scoreboard in the second half of 47-28.
If the Cats failed to learn the lesson that Kentucky is every SEC opponents’ super bowl, and when that SEC team is wounded, the battle against that wounded SEC team spells “double, double, toil and trouble” as Will Shakespeare warned us all those centuries ago.
This is a lesson that the Cats must have mastered before tonight when a wounded Texas A&M Aggies arrive at Rupp. Like Tennessee, Texas A&M also posted an impressive pre-SEC record, taking regular residence in the Pomeroy Top 10 following their opening game 23 point whipping of a very good West Virginia team (88-65). However, the Aggies has subsequently lost all three of their SEC games, at Alabama by 22, and at home to Florida by 17, and to LSU by 1.
“Double, double toil and trouble” certainly is in play for the Cats again on Tuesday night.
Texas A&M’s win over #11 West Virginia is not the Aggies only impressive non-conference win. Texas A&M has also beaten #59 Oklahoma State by 17, #39 Penn State by 11, #54 USC by 16, #55 Northern Kentucky by 6, and #98 Buffalo by 16. The Aggies’ only non-conference loss this season was at #21 Arizona by 3.
TEXAS A&M has started this season with a 11-4 record and an ANE of 0.201 ppp (#28) after having played a schedule strength of 0.056 ppp (#31).
The Cats return home ranked #38 with an ANE of 0.181 ppp after having played a schedule with a schedule strength of 0.058 ppp (#29). The ANE analysis has the Cats favored by 1 point, 74-73 in a game played at a pace of 76 possessions. Pomeroy has the Cats favored by 4, 71-67 with a pace of 70 possessions.
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