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NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: Fade Texas vs. Abilene Christian (March 20)

NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: Fade Texas vs. Abilene Christian (March 20) article feature image

Chris Covatta/Getty Images. Pictured: Jericho Sims.

  • The Texas Longhorns will battle the Abilene Christian Wildcats on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament first round.
  • Many have the Longhorns in the Final Four, but are we sure they can down the aggressive Wildcats in the first round?
  • Tanner McGrath isn't and explains his Texas vs. Abilene Christian pick below.

There seems to be a lot of people putting Texas in their Final Four. But are we sure the Longhorns can take down the Abilene Christian Wildcats?

ACU has won 10 of its last 11 games behind one of the best defenses in the country — not to mention the Wildcats are an amazing 16-6 ATS this season.

However, Texas has been just as hot. The Longhorns are 5-0 straight up and against the spread in their last five and just won the Big 12 Tournament after beating a talented Oklahoma State team in the final.

There’s big money coming in on ACU early, and I’m always partial to the sharps.

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BJ Cunningham: The Texas offense can bomb threes with the best of them. The Longhorns attempt 41.9% of their field-goal attempts from beyond the arc and hit 35.6% of them.

The problem, though, is they are incredibly streaky and will now go up against one of the best perimeter defenses in the country.

However, the Longhorns have great size up front with Kai Jones, Jericho Sims and Greg Brown. Thanks to their distinct size advantage in most matchups, the Longhorns shoot 52.5% from 2-point range and 60.1% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.

In fact, Jones and Sims are both shooting better than 62% from inside the arc, and that duo, in particular, will be a problem for an Abilene Christian team that doesn’t have much size outside of 7-footer Kolton Kohl.

The problem with Texas offensively is it turns the ball over at way too high of a rate, which is going to play right into Abilene Christian’s hands. The Wildcats force turnovers at the highest rate in the entire country.

Defensively, Texas has really struggled to keep opponents off the free-throw line. The Longhorns are 291st in free-throw rate allowed, which will be a problem for an ultra-disciplined team like Abilene Christian.

Texas also struggles with its defensive rotations, allowing the sixth-highest assist per field goal rate in the entire country. Abilene Christian is second in the nation offensively in the same metric.

Abilene Christian

Stuckey: Southland tournament champion Abilene Christian has one of the most aggressive defenses in the country, with an extremely deep, long and experienced roster. The Wildcats’ defense ranks in the top 15 in both 2-point and 3-point percentage, while leading the nation in turnover percentage.

It’s a dominant half-court defense built in the same mold of Texas Tech (no-middle philosophy) with hyper-aggression across the board.

The presence of 7-footer Kolten Kohl at the rim allows ACU to more freely gamble for steals and close out on 3-point attempts. While this does lead to an abundance of turnovers, it also leads to a high frequency of fouls.

Offensively, Abilene Christian runs its sets through the post at the sixth-highest rate nationally. Everything starts with Kohl in the middle. Kohl also has no shortage of shooters on the perimeter to kick out to as well.

As a team, ACU shot 37.7% from beyond the arc, which ranked 21st in the country. That said, the offense isn’t without flaws. The Wildcats have struggled with both turnovers (although it’s worth noting they face a ton of pressure in the Southland) and free throws.

The Wildcats did have one of the easiest strengths of schedules of any tournament team but did at least go on the road and face Arkansas and Texas Tech earlier this season in games they lost by 13 and 7, respectively.

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Tanner McGrath: I think the ACU defense matches up great with the Texas offense.

As mentioned above, ACU forces turnovers at the highest rate in the country. Texas, meanwhile, has major turnover issues. Point guard Matt Coleman alone has turned the ball over 19 times in the past five games.

Texas averages just 13.1 assists to 14.2 turnovers per game. Meanwhile, ACU averages 18.2 assists to 13.9 turnovers per game.

Sims will be an issue on the interior. The big man played insane against Oklahoma State (21 points, 14 rebounds, three steals, two blocks), but I think Kohl has the size to contain Sims.

ACU does have a size disadvantage, but I believe the Wildcats are active and aggressive enough on the defensive end to disrupt the Longhorn offense. Plus, Texas can be 3-point dependent (57th in the country in 3PA/FGA) and ACU opponents are shooting less than 30% from 3 this season.

Finally, at the time of this writing, ACU is receiving just 41% of the spread tickets but 75% of the spread handle. I think the Wildcats defense matches up well with this Texas offense, and I like it to keep it within double digits.

Pick: Abilene Christian +8 or better.

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