Odds & Pick for Maryland vs. Penn State College Basketball: Nittany Lions Provide Good Value in Big Ten Tussle
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Penn State basketball players.
- Penn State hosts Maryland on Friday night for a Big Ten showdown.
- Both teams are toward the bottom of the conference standings but are better than their records indicate.
- Pat McMahon previews Friday's matchup and shares his betting pick below.
Maryland vs. Penn State Odds
|Maryland Odds||+2.5 (-118)|
|Penn State Odds||-2.5 (-104)|
|Time | TV||Friday, 7 p.m. ET | FS1|
Penn State and Maryland treat college basketball fans to a quality Big Ten matchup on Friday night in Happy Valley.
Both teams are toward the bottom of the conference standings but are better than their records indicate.
Penn State (6-8, 3-7 Big Ten) has had a tough season, dealing with one of the nation’s most difficult schedules along with a nearly three-week pause due to COVID-19.
It’s suffered a number of close losses, but also boast quality wins over VCU, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, and Wisconsin. As a result, it ranks very well in advanced metrics (37th in KenPom and 32nd in NET) despite its losing record.
The Terps (10-8, 4-7 Big Ten) took care of business in a fairly easy non-conference schedule, but have had similar struggles in the gauntlet that is Big Ten play.
They also rank well in advanced metrics (42nd in KenPom and 37th in NET), and find themselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
This game against the Nittany Lions offers the Terps a rare chance at a NET Quad 1 win against a team that’s below .500.
When Penn State has the Ball
After losing program stalwarts Lamar Stephens and Mike Watkins to graduation, the Nittany Lions have turned to a more guard-oriented offense this season.
Three of their top four scorers, as well as the three leaders in minutes, are all guards. This shift in balance has led to an improvement on the offensive end, with the Nittany Lions ranking 17th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington are having terrific seasons on the wing. Jones is the leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, and he’s been money from beyond the arc, sinking 43.2% of his 3-point attempts.
Brockington is the team’s Swiss-army knife — he does a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor. He’s been much more aggressive attacking the rim and has upped his scoring from 8.1 points per game last season to 14.7 this year.
Point guard Jamari Wheeler doesn’t take a lot of shots but does a great job of running the offense and distributing the ball (team-high 3.8 assists per game).
Despite the guards doing a bulk of the scoring this year, Penn State still gets strong contributions on the inside from Seth Lundy and John Harrar.
Lundy has done an admirable job of filling Stevens’ role as a stretch four, scoring on the inside and on the perimeter for a total of 12.4 points per game.
Harrar’s main role is to crash the offensive glass (52 offensive rebounds) to create second-chance opportunities for himself and his teammates. He is capable of scoring when called upon, averaging 8.6 points on 59% shooting.
The Terrapins play tough defense, ranking 56th in defensive efficiency. They put up strong efforts in their most recent wins over Purdue and Minnesota. Minnesota managed just 49 points on 30.2% shooting against the Terps, while a good Purdue offense shot just 23.5% from 3 in a 60-point effort.
Maryland has had its struggles against the top offenses in the league, however, getting shredded against Iowa and against Michigan twice.
Both of those schools have top-10 offenses, but Penn State isn’t too far behind and could give the Terps some issues.
When Maryland has the Ball
The Terps like to take their time on offense, ranking 307th in tempo. Their slow pace has been effective, producing the 33rd-most efficient offense in the nation to date.
Maryland is also fairly guard-oriented and keeps a tighter rotation than the Nittany Lions with just seven players getting consistent minutes. Guards Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins and forward Donta Scott lead the offense, with all three averaging double-figures.
Ayala has been the most consistent scorer, but Scott has the most potential for a monster game on any given night due to his unique skill-set.
Scott possesses great touch on his jump shot (45.7% from 3), but can also use his strength to back down defenders and score on the inside. He could have some favorable matchups this game, and I expect Maryland to go to him early and often to put some pressure on the Nittany Lions’ forwards.
While the Terps’ offense has been efficient on the season, they’ve seen a downswing in the past month. Outside of a 100-point game against Division-II Wingate, Maryland hasn’t hit the 70-point mark since Dec. 31.
Since the calendar turned to 2021, Maryland is averaging just 61.4 points per game in seven Big Ten contests. One of its issues is getting consistent production outside of their top three scorers. It’ll need players like Hakim Hart, Jairus Hamilton, or Darryl Morsell to step up their games in order to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Penn State is a solid defense team but struggles with consistency.
The Nittany Lions currently rank 84th in defensive efficiency. They have a poor field goal percentage defense, allowing 47.1% shooting from the field. Most of the damage against them is coming inside the arc, but they’ve been very strong defending the deep ball.
The Terps have shot it well from deep (35.8%), but Penn State allows just 32% from distance.
The Nittany Lion backcourt is athletic and deep and should be able to hold the Maryland guards in check.
Its biggest concern will be containing Scott. The Nittany Lions have to be careful of Harrar or Lundy getting into foul trouble, as there isn’t much depth behind them in the frontcourt.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Penn State is a team I’ve loved backing this season. Due to its record and poor public perception, there will be several more great spots for them the rest of the way, starting on Friday night against the Terps.
After looking a little rusty in their first two games back from the COVID-19 pause, the Nittany Lions have been much sharper in their last five.
They’re coming off an odd back-to-back series with Wisconsin, where they upset the Badgers last Saturday before falling by 16 in Madison on Tuesday. That second game was a very tough spot for the Nittany Lions, and the result may have had too much of an influence on this spread.
Maryland’s offense hasn’t been able to find a rhythm in a long time,and simply can’t be trusted right now.
While its win over Purdue on Tuesday was impressive, it may be getting too much credit as the Boilermakers were without star guard Sasha Stefanovic.
Penn State doesn’t rely too heavily on one or two players to do the scoring, and it should have enough in the tank offensively to take care of business at home.
I have this line at about Penn State -5.5, so I see plenty of value in getting them at -3 or better
Pick: Penn State -2.5 (up to -3).