The seven vs. ten matchups in this year’s tournament are all intriguing matchups with a lot of potential, and one of those games will feature Penn State taking on Texas A&M. Both sides made deep runs into their respective conference tournaments, and now they’ll meet tonight at 9:55 PM EST. We’ll preview the game before going over my play for the action.
If there was ever any evidence needed on how quickly a program can turn around from transfer portal additions, the Penn State Nittany Lions would be a perfect example. Adding Camren Wynter and Andrew Funk to an offense with Seth Lundy and Jaden Pickett helped the Nittany Lions to reach the Big Ten Championship game and rank 17th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom.
It’s hard to find teams that shot the ball as well as Penn State did this season, as they rank 9th in three-point percentage, 49th in shooting percentage, and 12th in effective field goal percentage. The three-ball is their biggest factor, and that was made clear in their conference tournament run. The Nittany Lions attempt an average of 27 threes per game, the 12th-highest average in the country.
Penn State’s three-point shooting ability sets up an exciting strength versus strength matchup in this game with a Texas A&M defense that is 38th in the country in defensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom. The Aggies' defense helped carry them into the SEC title game, which was only their second loss over their last ten games. In that ten-game stretch, the Aggies held eight of their ten opponents under 70 points, and on the season, they allowed an average of 66.2 per game.
Unlike their opponent, the Aggies don’t possess shooting numbers that jump off the page, but they do one thing on offense at an elite level, and that is getting to the free throw line. Entering tonight, Texas A&M ranks 1st in free throws made per game and 2nd in free throws attempted per game, with the 39th-best free throw percentage in the country.
Penn State can currently be found as +3 point underdogs in this one, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Nittany Lions are 7-2-1 ATS over their last ten games, and when listed as an underdog this season, they went 10-5 ATS. Both teams are playing at exceptionally high levels, so I expect this game to be close from start to finish and trust the Nittany Lions offense to keep them in the game.
One of the best things you can have entering the NCAA Tournament is the ability to get hot from deep quickly and momentum, which the Nittany Lions have. Penn State is knocking down an average of 10.4 threes per game and has four players shooting 38.3% or better from beyond the arc.
Penn State may not have a high ranking in defensive efficiency like the Aggies, but their defense has been playing exceptionally well lately. The Nittany Lions were also 8-2 over their last ten games and held seven of those opponents under 70 points. One of the critical areas defensively will be keeping the Aggies off the free-throw line, and Penn State does have that ability as they rank 43rd in opponent free-throw attempts per game.
Penn State Nittany Lions (+3)