Texas A M Kentucky Basketball

Texas A&M's Tyler Davis pulls down a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 74-73. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

James Crisp

It's not unprecedented that the Texas A&M men's basketball team could lose a fifth straight Southeastern Conference game and still win the league title. A&M won its one SEC regular season title in 2016 despite a five-game losing streak at one point in conference play.

Don't count on it happening again, though, if the Aggies leave Knoxville, Tennessee, on Saturday with a 0-5 SEC record.

The Aggies went 13-5 in SEC play in 2016 with winning streaks of seven and six games on either side of their unexplainable slump. To go 13-5 in the SEC again obviously means the Aggies would have to win 13 straight, which no team is doing in this league, not Kentucky, not Florida.

A&M coach Billy Kennedy said before SEC play began that the league's balance meant the champion could hold as many as six losses this season. There are no world beaters in the league and the bottom feeders like LSU and Missouri are much better. Others, like Auburn, have put themselves in the title conversation.

The NFL would be proud of this parity.

Despite the slow start, the Tennessee game is not a must win for A&M (11-5, 0-4). The squads play at 5 p.m. Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

Even if A&M won and reached 1-4, the likelihood of jumping 13 teams and winning the conference still is very slim. Not impossible -- the season isn't even one-third along -- but very slim.

Plus, No. 25 Tennessee (11-4, 2-2) is good. Even at full strength A&M would have trouble with the Volunteers and their three- or four-guard lineup.

Tennessee has been a tough matchup for A&M since Rick Barnes took over. The Vols beat the Aggies 73-63 at Reed Arena to open SEC play last season, setting a hopeful tone that sputtered enough for Tennessee to finish 16-15 overall and 8-10 in conference.

So a win Saturday has never been a guarantee, and the Aggies need to look big picture against the Vols. They can keep squinting at an SEC title for now, but the eyes need to be wide open toward being at their best come the postseason. A&M, with its nonconference body of work, need only have a .500 record in the SEC to make the NCAA tournament.

The Aggies have shown they can be dominant. They beat No. 2 West Virginia 88-65 to open the season and added impressive victories over Oklahoma State, Penn State and Southern California. Injuries and suspensions have derailed what looked to be a Sweet 16 team. As the losses have mounted, the team's continuity has disappeared.

By now, Kennedy should have known his rotation and have confidence in what five he can play in specific situations. In the past four games, the Aggies have not had the same starting lineup once and have had no more than three of their regular starters on the floor when the game tipped off.

Getting everyone back and keeping them back, finding chemistry and gaining some positive thoughts when the game is on the line -- which includes sinking free throws -- is the main priority. After facing Tennessee, A&M has a stretch in which it can recover with 4 of 5 SEC games at home.

Those are the must-win games.

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