Washington State vs. Texas A&M Odds, Predictions: Our Top Pick for NIT Semifinal
Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Michael Flowers (Washington State)
Washington State vs. Texas A&M Odds
|Washington State Odds|
-110o / -110u
|Texas A&M Odds|
-110o / -110u
Before the college basketball world descends on New Orleans for the Final Four on Saturday, Tuesday night features a fascinating doubleheader in Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals.
Following Xavier vs. St. Bonaventure, Washington State will take on Texas A&M in a battle between two of the hottest teams in the entire country.
Texas A&M was widely seen as the biggest snub of the NCAA Tournament field after the Aggies made a run to the SEC Tournament title game, beating Florida, Auburn and Arkansas in the process.
The Aggies lost to Tennessee on Selection Sunday and were left out of the field. They've since rolled through the NIT, beating Alcorn State, Oregon and Wake Forest all by double digits.
Washington State struggled throughout its non-conference slate, blowing leads and having turnover issues. The Cougars started with NCAA Tournament hopes, but injuries throughout the year were part of the reason they ended up well short of an at-large bid.
The Cougars have also won all three of their NIT games by double digits, beating Santa Clara, SMU and BYU en route to the semifinals.
Washington State only has three players that have contributed in every game this season. Between injuries and COVID-19, few teams have lost more production throughout the regular season than Kyle Smith's Cougars.
Noah Williams missed two games — the Cougars lost both to Colorado and Eastern Washington. He was limited in minutes for some of games, too.
Tyrell Roberts missed a home loss to New Mexico State, forward Mouhamed Gueye missed the Pac-12 Tournament and TJ Bamba missed five total games in which the Cougars went 2-3. Key bench piece Dishon Jackson missed 10 games in the heart of conference play, too.
After starting 5-0 with a weak, early non-conference schedule, the Cougars haven't really been fully healthy for a significant stretch of games since then.
When they've been healthy, they've played like a top-20 team.
— Bart T🏀rvik (@totally_t_bomb) March 24, 2022
Washington State's defense also matches up really well with the Aggies' offense in this game.
The Cougars win with defense first, specifically defense at the rim. They're rated as the 23rd-best defense in finishing at the rim, per ShotQuality. The Cougars also rank top-50 in the country in turnover rate defensively, an area where the Aggies really struggle offensively.
If you can make tough, contested mid-range shots or open 3s, you can attack the Cougars successfully. But those are two areas that A&M really struggles offensively.
The Cougars usually struggle to grab defensive rebounds, but a lot of those numbers are skewed by the terrible games they had without Gueye in the middle defensively.
After struggling on the defensive glass in the Pac-12 Tournament without him, he's returned, and they've had three consecutive good rebounding games defensively.
Washington State will have major issues getting much offense at the rim, but the Cougars have improved their turnover issues considerably, and rank top-50 in the country on offense at preventing turnovers.
If they can manage the elite Aggies ball pressure, that should lead to enough open 3s and second-chance points to produce just enough offense in a defense-first game.
Texas A&M began conference play 4-0 — with a marquee win against Arkansas — and looked like a clear NCAA Tournament team after a 15-2 start to the year.
That was part one of the Aggies' season.
In part two, the Aggies lost nine of 10 games and played their way out of the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation.
Since then, though, the Aggies have once again played like a top-20 team under head coach Buzz Williams.
They've won 10 of their last 11 games, beating Wake Forest, Oregon, Arkansas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State. The defense is 13th in BartTorvik efficiency since Feb. 15, and the offense has improved to a respectable 46th.
The Aggies own one of the best turnover and pressure defenses in the entire country. They're eighth in the country in turnovers forced rate, and use that to produce transition opportunities.
When the Aggies get bogged down in the half-court, they struggle to produce unless they're shooting above their averages from deep.
Texas A&M ranks 13th in the SEC in 3-point percentage and 230th nationally. Based on ShotQuality, the Aggies have actually marginally over-performed their numbers. They can't shoot at all.
They run in transition at the 50th-highest frequency and are efficient offensively when they can run, but Washington State won't let them get out on the break often.
Washington State vs. Texas A&M Betting Pick
The market opened the Aggies as a 1-point favorite, and they've moved up to 1.5-point favorites.
Washington State is healthy and has more than enough ball handlers to prevent turnovers against the Aggies' pressure defense. The Cougars are top-50 at protecting the ball and will have major advantages on the offensive glass in this matchup.
The lack of turnovers and extra offensive rebounds will enable the Cougars to control the pace Tuesday night. That means fewer transition opportunities for the Aggies to take advantage, and Texas A&M will need to score in the half-court to win this game.
Given how elite Washington State's rim defense is, it's hard to see how Texas A&M scores enough to win this game unless it's shooting at an absurd rate from beyond the arc.
The Aggies are one of the hottest teams in the country, but Washington State is playing just as well, is finally healthy and matches up pretty well with the Aggies.
The slight edge should be with Washington State, and I'd bet the Cougars at any underdog price.