Following their impressive Big Ten conference tournament run, Penn State put up arguably the best performance of every tournament team by routing the Texas A&M Aggies. It was a shooting clinic, seemingly finding an open look throughout the full course of the game. They will need to find that similar success against a much tougher opponent in the Longhorns, coming in as a +6 underdog. With the Nittany Lions able to stretch out the Texas defense, my prediction is that they cover the spread in what will be a thrilling offensive showdown.
Penn State Vs. Texas Prediction
Normally an instant fade target due to their porous defense, I can’t help but back the Nittany Lions in their heater as they are running as one of the most efficient perimeter units in the nation. Penn State ranks 13th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, basing a brunt of their success on their 38.5% perimeter shooting. They will need every bit of that success as Texas holds opponents to 32.4% from three, good for 84th in the nation per TeamRankings.
What’s even more impressive is that Penn State is one of the slowest units in the nation, picking apart teams in methodical half court sets. Their pace of play ranks 319th in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom, far slower than the Longhorns 100th ranked pace. Texas runs long and lengthy outside of Marcus Carr, yet the Nittany Lions have shown no reason why they cannot shift their defense to their liking for more high-quality looks.
Especially with Jalen Pickett running the show, commanding defensive attention with his elite playmaking. He leads the team in scoring with his dual threat abilities, averaging 17.9 points per game. He’s a matchup nightmare as he grows more into a facilitating role, relentlessly attacking the interior to force defensive help from the outside. When outside help has to shade in, they leave themselves vulnerable for Penn State to exploit with Pickett’s elite vision.
One area of concern I want to note, and a major reason this is a smaller wager than normal, is Penn State’s inability to rebound. Especially on the offensive end, hauling in an incredibly low 5.3 offensive rebounds per game. That number has since ticked up to 6.3 since their game against Indiana in the Big Ten semi’s, yet heavily skewed for their rebounding performance against the Hoosiers. This may be a live trading game should they show signs early of going cold, giving us a buyout option on the Longhorns.
Penn State Vs. Texas Prediction: Penn State +6
Penn State Vs. Texas Odds
Even after an impressive first round performance, oddsmakers still lean heavily in favor towards the Longhorns as they opened Texas as a -6 favorite. Bettors are backing the Nittany Lions to keep up their streak, taking them down to +5.5 in some shops. As previously mentioned, this is a great live trading game due to the potential for streaky shooting. Should Penn State get out of the gates early, I will look to add Texas at any plus number when Penn State shows signs of regression.
As for the total, oddsmakers believe points will be scored in a quick pace as they opened the number at 140.5. Bettors have slightly leaned towards the unders favor, taking it down to 139.5 as of writing. The expected tempo leans heavily towards the under as Penn State will look to control this at a snail’s pace, avoiding a track meet and limiting the Longhorns points in transition.
Penn State Vs. Texas Key Matchups
Penn State interior defense vs Texas low post offense
Penn State’s defense has been less than ideal throughout the course of the season, ranking 95th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They lack length and give up perimeter looks at a high rate yet excel in what will be a key reason for them to pull out this win.
Penn State makes up for their size with a compact style of defense, mimicking a soft 2-3 zone yet still playing man coverage. This will force looks to come at a higher rate from the perimeter for the Longhorns, a style of play that is tough to rely on as a 33.9% shooting unit.
Penn State’s ability to shift over to the open man while still negating looks at the rim are a key reason for why I believe they will cover the spread in my Penn State Vs. Texas prediction.
Back the Nittany Lions at no lower than +6 in what is a prime trading game. Should Penn State start out hot, then this allows us a potential middle opportunity with shooting regression looming for the Nittany Lions.