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Know Your Enemy: No. 10 Penn State Hoops vs. No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies

Here. We. Go.

No. 10-seeded Penn State will take on No. 7-seeded Texas A&M at 9:55 p.m. ET tonight in Des Moines, Iowa, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This is the Nittany Lions’ first NCAA Tournament game since 2011 when they lost to in-state rival Temple in the opening round.

The storylines in 2011 and 2023 are strikingly similar: No. 10-seeded Penn State fell to No. 7-seeded Temple in a 66-64 loss. Penn State will try to avoid the same fate.

To do that, Micah Shrewsberry’s squad must defeat a Texas A&M team that is on a similar streak to the Nittany Lions. The Aggies made it to the SEC Championship, where they lost to No. 1-seeded Alabama. Texas A&M impressed a lot of people during that run, and many experts expected the Aggies to land a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

The question hot on the minds of Penn State fans: Can this team beat Texas A&M?

Well, we’re here to tell you everything you should know about this matchup. Here’s what to expect when the two teams tip off on Thursday night.

Overview

When looking at the Aggies’ season statistics, there are a few numbers that jump out immediately. The first is how many free throws this team takes per game. Texas A&M averages 19.2 free throws made per game, which is 10 more than Penn State averages at nine per game. It leads the country in free throw attempts at 25.3. The Aggies are physical and will draw fouls, which has gotten the Nittany Lions in trouble at times.

Wade Taylor IV leads the way for the Aggies when it comes to free throws and overall scoring. Taylor averages 16.5 points per game while knocking down 87.5% of his free throws.

Rebounding also favors Texas A&M, and it has an average margin of five more rebounds than its opponents throughout the season. It is ranked No. 25 nationally in offensive rebounds per game at 12.29, which is vastly better than Penn State, which is ranked No. 351 in terms of offensive rebounds per game. Rebounding and second-chance opportunities skew in the Aggies’ favor, however, all hope is not lost for Penn State fans.

Texas A&M causes a lot of turnovers but also turns the ball over at a high rate. The Nittany Lions, on the other hand, are the fourth-best team in the country when it comes to turning the ball over. They are usually very safe with the ball because they’re not a team that scores in transition. Penn State takes its time, usually with Jalen Pickett backing defenders down in the paint, and waits until the shot clock is in single digits before taking a shot. This style of play could make the Aggies impatient, giving the Nittany Lions an advantage on the offensive side.

Pickett taking his time will allow for players like Andrew Funk, Myles Dread, and Seth Lundy to get open behind the arc, and fans know that making threes is the preferred strategy for Penn State. Texas A&M, on the other hand, doesn’t guard the three well, which could be the deciding statistic. If the threes fall, the Nittany Lions have a great opportunity for the upset.

It’s also important to talk about the history between the No. 7 seed and the No. 10 seed in the opening round matchups. No. 10 seeds are 52-75 in the opening round of the tournament historically and rarely make it far. Syracuse is the only No. 10-seeded team to make the Final Four after beating No. 7-seeded Dayton, No. 15-seeded Middle Tennessee, No. 11-seeded Gonzaga, and No. 1-seeded Virginia before losing to No. 1-seeded UNC.

The path is not stacked in Penn State’s favor, but a win against Texas A&M is more than possible. While both teams are playing their best basketball, the Aggies’ weaknesses are the Nittany Lions’ strengths, which will make for an exciting basketball game.

Prediction

This matchup is easily the best game of the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Both teams can go on a run and shock the college basketball world, and it’s disappointing to lose one of them this early on. That said, this is a great matchup for Penn State to make a statement.

Pickett, Lundy, and Dread will not let this team lose in the first game. The Aggies also can’t defend the three well, and should the threes fall, the Nittany Lions should have every opportunity to win. Penn State will come out of this round with a 74-68 win over Texas A&M.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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