Penn State Hoops Weighing Longhorn Matchups For Jalen Pickett Ahead Of Second Round Of NCAA Tournament
In the first meeting between the two programs, No. 10-seeded Penn State men’s basketball and No. 2-seed Texas will face off in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 18.
While only familiar with the other’s strategy by means of scouting reports and film, the Big Ten and Big 12 competitors will spar for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen or watch their season come to a close.
Head coaches Micah Shrewsberry and Rodney Terry are largely unfamiliar with each other’s conference, let alone program. In a campaign based on game plan design, the groups will hit the hardwood in Des Moines searching to continue their postseason runs.
For the Nittany Lions, the battle-tested crew hasn’t tipped off in the second round of March Madness since 2001, but history is irrelevant in regard to the roster Shrewsberry has bolstered in his second year in Happy Valley. In the midst of a run that has seen it win nine of its last 11 games, Penn State is playing its best basketball in March.
Similarly, the Longhorns are fresh off a Big 12 Tournament Championship and are on a run of their own. Texas has a once-familiar Big Ten opponent in Marcus Carr, who transferred to Texas from Minnesota and is acquainted with the likes of Seth Lundy, Myles Dread, and Big Ten play.
“They’re a good team. They shoot the ball well,” Carr said. “They have a lot of guys who can knock down shots and some guys who can create shots for others as well. They do a good job of taking care of the basket, so it’s going to be a battle of two good teams.”
Carr will likely be responsible for guarding All-American Nittany Lion leader Jalen Pickett throughout much of the competition and, while unfamiliar with each other, Carr and Pickett will undoubtedly display offensive showdowns for their respective teams.
“I think he’s a great player,” Carr said of Pickett. “We’ve broken down some of his film. He’s a guy who can get a lot of buckets himself, rebound the ball…pass the ball. That’s something I admire. I feel like I’m that way, too. I like the matchup.”
On the blue and white side of the court, Shrewsberry and his staff have spent time calculating the best-case scenario for a Pickett matchup, while preparing for every other option. With talented guards like Carr, Tyrese Hunter, and Sir’Jabari Rice, it’s complex to draw up multiple plans to maximize Pickett against each option.
Still, Shrewsberry is utilizing the tight turnaround to unpack film, create scouting reports, and prepare Pickett and the Nittany Lions as advantageously as possible to pull off an upset win.
“For us, it’s also about finding who we want to guard him and also looking at how people are playing different things,” Shrewsberry said. “So, we spend a lot of time going into the game trying to figure out who we want to guard him and how do we get to that? Then once we figure that out, he and I get on the same page and then I let him operate, right?”
Senior forward Timmy Allen is another self-described potential matchup for Pickett. The 6’6″ Utah transfer averages 3.6 assists per game and tallied five against Colgate on Thursday. With about four inches on Pickett, the matchup should be no different than a typical Big Ten contest for the Nittany Lion.
“He’s a great player, and I’m just trying to make him uncomfortable as much as I can, along with other guys who are going to be matched on him,” Allen said. “…I love matchups like that. Nothing different than what I’ve gone up against all year, so I’m excited.”
While Pickett’s direct opposition remains unclear for now, Texas is expectant of a fiery Penn State roster across the board. For a team on a historical run and lighting a fire underneath its fanbase, the Longhorns understand the competition level despite the variance in seeding.
“You talk about one of the best passing teams I’ve seen all year on tape. Getting a chance to watch them in person — elite-level passing team, elite-level shooters, with a challenging, unique player in Jalen Pickett who does it all,” said Terry. “He’s a guy that can score the basketball, pass the basketball, and man, elite-level shooters around in Funk and Lundy. Really good team. One of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. It going to be a great matchup.”
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About the Author
Our photographers were on hand to capture the sights of Penn State basketball’s return to Rec Hall.
A Cathedral Is Useless If You Never Hold Mass: Penn State Basketball Should Permanently Return To Rec Hall
Rec Hall is an intimidating place to play basketball and the Bryce Jordan Center simply is not. Why not make the switch?
“I’ve just been super interested ever since that first year trying to grow my personal THON story, get more connections to it, help as many people as I can, and be that person [my mom] is for other people.”