Texas A&M vs Penn State Odds & Prediction: Bet First-Round Underdog

Texas A&M vs Penn State Odds & Prediction: Bet First-Round Underdog article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Wade Taylor IV of the Texas A&M Aggies (left) and Jalen Pickett of the Penn State Nittany Lions (right).

Texas A&M vs Penn State Odds

Thursday, March 16
9:55 p.m. ET
Texas A&M Odds
-110o / -110u
Penn State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

After losing in their conference championship games, Penn State and Texas A&M meet in beautiful Des Moines, Iowa, for a first-round matchup.

The Nittany Lions were on the bubble and one of the last teams out of the Big Dance before the Big Ten Tournament began. They played their way in by beating Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana before losing to Purdue by two in the final. They're an elite jump-shooting team led by Jalen Pickett and will be a very difficult out in this tournament.

Texas A&M somehow finished second in the SEC despite not being a great jump-shooting team and sitting outside the top 30 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

The Aggies also benefitted from playing a relatively easy schedule this season. The question is: will that come back to bite them in the NCAA tournament?

Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M is a much different offense than most of the teams around the country.

The Aggies are not a great jump-shooting team, ranking seventh in the SEC in effective field goal percentage, ninth in 3-point field goal percentage and sixth in 2-point field goal percentage.

However, they get to the free throw at the third-highest rate in the country, and they are shot 77% in conference play when they got there. Texas A&M relies the free-throw line for 26.2% of its points, which is the second-highest average in the country, per KenPom.

The Aggies also are top-10 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, so they get a ton of second-chance opportunities as well. However, that's not going to work against Penn State, which is elite in those two categories defensively.

Texas A&M is 37th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency but largely benefited from playing in one of the worst offensive conferences in the country. The SEC this season was dead last in college basketball in 3-point field goal percentage this season.

Texas A&M allowed just 32.3% from deep, but it's also are 352nd in 3-point rate allowed and 212th in open 3-point rate allowed, per ShotQuality.

Image via ShotQuality.

As you can see, the Aggies also aren't good at defending shot-makers or forcing teams into bad shots. They're also one of the worst teams in the country at disrupting ball movement, which is why they're 339th in assist-to-made field goal percentage allowed.

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Penn State Nittany Lions

Offensively, Penn State is one of the odd teams in college basketball.

It does an unbelievable job taking care of the ball, as it's seventh in the country in turnover percentage allowed. The Nittany Lions are ninth in effective field goal percentage and 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, but have the second-lowest offensive rebounding percentage and third-lowest free-throw rate in the entire country.

That means the Nittany Lions' offense is incredibly reliant on not only getting high-quality shots but making them, as well. The Nittany Lions' shot selection is actually quite terrible, ranking 334th, per ShotQuality.

They're a top-10 shot-making team, but usually when a squad isn't getting high-quality shots, it's not getting second-chance opportunities. However, when a team hits shots the way Penn State does at 38.5% from beyond the arc with a top 10 3-point rate, it's an offensive explosion waiting to happen.

Jalen Pickett hits Trayce Jackson-Davis with the "too small" 😮 pic.twitter.com/tpo1deQsug

— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 11, 2023

Penn State's defense did struggle this season, ranking 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency in the Big Ten. It struggled to stop elite jump-shooting teams and was one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers.

The good news? Teams don't need to be elite in those two areas when facing Texas A&M.

The two things they have to do well to stop Texas A&M are preventing offensive rebounds and keeping the Aggies from getting to the free-throw line. Penn State ranks top-45 in the country in both of those categories.

The Nittany Lions also defend the rim at a top-50 rate, which is another big key against the Aggies.

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Texas A&M vs Penn State Betting Pick

I love Penn State in this matchup and think it's a little crazy it's the underdog. The Nittany Lions are playing well at the right time and are the best jump-shooting team Texas A&M has seen in a long time.

Penn State also ranking in the top 10 for 3-point rate when Texas A&M allows one of the highest 3-point rates is a huge red flag for the Aggies coming out of the SEC, where no team in the conference can make a 3-point shot.

Penn State's ability to take away offensive rebounds and keep Texas A&M off the free-throw line is also going to completely hamper the Aggies offensively.

So, I love the Nittany Lions as underdogs at +3.

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