After losing in their conference championship games, Penn State and Texas A&M meet in Des Moines, Iowa for a first-round matchup. Both teams have played well as of late.
Before the Big Ten Tournament began, the Nittany Lions were on the edge and one of the final teams out. But they battled their way in by defeating Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana before falling by two in the final. Led by Jalen Pickett’s elite jump-shooting, these Nittany Lions will be tough opponents throughout this tournament.
Texas A&M managed to finish second in the SEC despite not having an outstanding jump-shooting team and ranking outside of the top 30 for both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.
This season, the Aggies enjoyed a relatively easy schedule. But will that come back to haunt them in the NCAA tournament?
Texas A&M boasts a distinctive offense compared to most of its counterparts around the country.
The Aggies aren’t particularly strong jump shooters, ranking seventh in the SEC for effective field goal percentage, ninth for 3-point field goal percentage and sixth for 2-point field goal percentage.
Texas A&M makes free throws at the third highest rate in the country, shooting 77% when they get there. According to KenPom, they rely on this area for 26.2% of their points – which is the second highest among all schools.
The Aggies rank top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage, giving them plenty of second-chance opportunities. Unfortunately, Penn State is unbeatable when it comes to both defensive categories.
Texas A&M ranks 37th in adjusted defensive efficiency but has the advantage of playing in one of the worst offensive conferences in America, the SEC. This season, their 3-point field goal percentage was dead last among college basketball teams nationwide.
Texas A&M University allows just 32.3% from deep, ranking them 352nd in 3-point rate allowed and 212th for open 3-pointers allowed, according to ShotQuality data.
Penn State is one of the odd teams in college basketball when it comes to offense.
Penn State does an admirable job keeping possession of the ball, ranking seventh nationally in turnover percentage allowed. They are ninth in effective field goal percentage and 14th overall according to KenPom’s calculations, yet possess only the second-lowest offensive rebounding percentage and third-lowest free-throw rate among all NCAA programs.
That puts the Nittany Lions’ offense in a precarious position, needing not only high-quality shots but making them as well. Unfortunately, their shot selection ranks 334th according to ShotQuality.
Penn State is a top-10 shot-making team, but when they don’t get high-quality shots they often lack second-chance opportunities. But when a squad hits shots like Penn State does at 38.5% from beyond the arc there’s potential for an offensive explosion to unfold.
Penn State’s defense had a difficult season this season, ranking 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency within the Big Ten. It had difficulty stopping high-scoring teams and was one of the worst teams at forcing turnovers nationally.
The good news? Teams don’t need to be unbeatable in these two areas when taking on Texas A&M.
To stop Texas A&M, the two things they must do well prevent offensive rebounds and keep the Aggies from getting to the free-throw line. Penn State ranks top 45 nationally in both of these categories.
The Nittany Lions defend the rim at an impressive rate, which will be another key factor in their win against the Aggies.
These teams have no prior games from this season.
Penn State should be able to pull this out behind their shooting. Jaylen Pickett is in line for a monster game, if the Nittany Lions hit over 43 per cent of their shots they win this game. I am taking the Nittany Lions +3 in what I think will be a close game.
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