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The second round of the NCAA Tournament is starting to take shape. Sixteen teams punched their ticket to play on Saturday after prevailing on Thursday. The Texas Longhorns will face the Penn State Nittany Lions in the tournament's second round, and this should be a competitive matchup. Texas is projected to make a deep March Madness run, but Penn State will have something to say about this on Saturday. Let’s take a look at the second-round matchup.
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Penn State lost to Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game. However, they got back on track with their opening-round victory over Texas A&M. The Nittany Lions have defined inconsistency this season, but they’re playing great basketball at the right time. Penn State enforced their will on Texas A&M throughout the entire 40 minutes. The biggest issue for the Nittany Lions all season was their defense, but this wasn’t the case in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State held the Aggies to 59 points, as the SEC power shot under 34% from the field. The Nittany Lions couldn’t miss, as they shot 48.2% from the field and 59% from three-point range. It’s close to impossible to lose during March Madness with this type of three-point percentage.
For the Nittany Lions to win this game, they must execute the exact game plan. Scoring hasn’t been an issue for Penn State this season, but their defense fluctuates. The hard-nosed style we saw in the first round is a sign they are playing the right way at the right time in the backcourt. However, we won’t know for sure until the opening tip on Saturday.
Penn State is led by Jalen Pickett, who does everything for the team. The Nittany Lions wouldn’t be nearly as competitive without the senior guard. Pickett is fifth in the nation in assists, with 6.7 per game. He makes everyone around him better, but his scoring ability steals the show when spectators see Pickett in action.
Pickett scored 19 points in the NCAA Tournament first round, with seven boards and eight assists. The guard is averaging 17.9 points per game, which has helped the Nittany Lions rank 17th in the KenPom offensive ranking. Penn State will need another performance like this to take down the Big 12 power on Saturday.
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Countless brackets were busted yesterday, but Texas wasn’t one of the teams contributing to the madness. The Longhorns opened against Colgate and sent the Red Raiders back to New York after a dominant win. Texas won by a 20-point margin and were exceptional from the field. Timmie Allen being back in the lineup really helped Texas on the floor, and it showed in the final score.
Texas was exceptional from the three-point line, shooting 13 of 23 from behind the arch. This type of performance from the three is hard no matter the opponent. Texas had a mix of open and contested looks, but they knocked down the majority of their shots. The Longhorns are loaded all over, but an unexpected leader arose in the first round.
Sir’Jabari Rice came off the bench and scored 23 points and had six rebounds in the win. This performance was the best of his career in the biggest spot. His presence off the bench is an extra weapon for the loaded Longhorns as they move through March Madness.
Rice was the star of the first-round win for Texas, but Marcus Carr leads the Longhorns. Carr is a natural scorer with a tremendous vision on the floor. In the first round, he contributed 17 points over 35 minutes. When Carr is hot from the field, he takes shots. However, he is smart enough to dish the basketball when his teammates have open looks.
Allen has been one of his favorite targets this season at the low post. Carr and Allen have been a great duo in the Longhorns winning formula. Texas is the fifth-ranked team in the country according to the KenPom Ranking and doesn’t have too many weaknesses.
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Texas is favored in this game on FanDuel Sportsbook, which is no surprise. They’re the better team, and they should win this basketball game. Although, anything can happen in March Madness, Penn State is playing solid basketball at the right time. The main matchup to watch on Saturday will be the Texas offense versus the Penn State defense. The Nittany Lions have an efficient offense, according to the KenPom Ranking, but the defense is a flaw.
It’s very easy to win when a team holds their opponent to roughly 30% of the field. Although, this likely won’t happen for Texas on Saturday. The Longhorns are favored by 5.5 points, and we don’t feel that Penn State can put together another performance similar to Thursday.
The Nittany Lions were making every shot from beyond the arch and got to the foul line on a consistent basis. Everything went right for Penn State, but the matchup isn’t good for them against the Nittany Lions. Pickett is the sole scorer for Penn State, and this team goes as he does every time they take the floor.
Texas has plenty of options to take the ball in a highly competitive matchup, which gives them the nod. With the 5.5-point spread, it’s big enough to lean toward Penn State. Although, we think Texas continues to make a statement and march their way toward the Final Four. Lay the points with the Longhorns.
Pick: Texas -5.5
Location: Wells Fargo Arena (IA)
Game Time & Date: MAR. 18 @ 7:45 p.m. ET
TV Network: CBS
Streaming: March Madness Live App
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Tanner Kern has been working in the betting industry since 2020. He currently is a social media content creator at DraftKings and contributes to multiple sites in addition to WSN, including Forbes and VSiN. He is also the cohost of the podcast Ride the Line at WSN.More info on Tanner Kern
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