CBB - Texas at Texas A&M (9:00 PM ET - ESPN)
The much-publicized "Rivalry Week" starts with an absolute dandy as Texas visits College Station for the first of two head to head match-ups this month. Both will enter this Texas-sized encounter a bit shaky potentially for different reasons. On Saturday, the Longhorns were stunned at home by Kansas State 73-72 as eight point favorites. Texas A&M maintained its poise with a late comeback and won arguably the most important regular season game ever at Kansas. Now less than 48 hours later after taking sole possession of first place in the Big 12, the Aggies have to muster the emotion to hold off rival Texas.
For the first time in almost two months, Texas actually played like what they are, a very young team. The Longhorns have lost games along the way, but just missed shots as opposed to lack of continuity. Who was especially affected was point guard A.J. Abrams who had a miserable day, going 2-of-16 from the field. In looking back the sophomore's troubles might have been masked by previous victories since he had scored just ten points total in previous two contests. Now he and his team-mates will face one of the most dangerous guards in the country.
The Aggies have been winning games at a rapid pace at 19-3, yet were lacking the signature win that places the college Basketball world on notice how good they actually are. With losses at LSU, at UCLA and at Texas Tech, coach Billy Gillespie's squad closed out a top opponent in the most unlikely of places in the most unthinkable of ways. Texas A&M trailed Kansas by 12 points with over six minutes to go when they kept creeping closer and one of the nation's most clutch performer's Acie Law nailed a 3-pointer to put the Aggies ahead for good. After a stirring and emotional comeback Law and fellow team-mates have now garnered the attention and will need to prove they can follow up with another win.
The task will not be a breeze as freshman sensation Kevin Durant continues his phenomenal play in conference action. Even in defeat, Durant had 32 points and 9 rebounds and now faces the toughest, most physical defense he will see all year. The Aggies lead the nation in field goal percentage defense at 35.3% and are second in points allowed at 54.8 per game. The Aggies employ a straight up physical style designed to intimidate and mentally wear down the opponent. The challenge for the Texas is to shore up a defense that allowed Kansas State to make 13 three pointers and yet still be very concerned about strongman James Jones inside presence.
Texas A&M opens as a 7.5-point favorite at Sportsbook.com and will go for rare three wins in a row at home against Texas. In fact the Aggies are favored at home against the Longhorns for the first time in well over a decade.
Coach Rick Barnes youngsters must quickly put aside the disappointment of a loss and prepare to face a bruising style of Basketball that has led to Law and Jones team to being 11-3 ATS versus good offensive teams, scoring 77 or more points a game like Texas. The Aggies have often built on playing as an underdog with 9-2 ATS record in next game over the last two seasons.
Use the Live Odds page to gather information on this and other contests in tonight's action. This is part two of Big Monday starting at 9:00 Eastern.
About the Author: Peter is an experienced sports writer and handicapper, who has written for the sports industry for over 10 years. He has years writing for Sports Scene, sports consulting on 33 Made for Television and Major Motion Pictures.