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Penn State vs No. 12 Texas A&M Preview: First Test Of The Season Is A Big One

Penn State and Texas A&M meet again months after their NCAA Tournament battle.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Penn State vs Texas A&M Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The last time these two teams met back in March, a game that was competitive early turned into a laugher by the end. The Texas A&M Aggies were the favorite then, having reached the SEC Tournament final but falling at the hands of Alabama. They are once again the favorite, but the perceived disparity between the two teams is even larger than that of last season, as the Nittany Lions bring a rebuilt roster to the matchup.

The other difference between the two teams is the philosophy. Gone is the five-out, three-point shooting barrage that gave A&M so much trouble in the NCAA Tournament. In comes the HAVOC style of play Buzz Willians is familiar with, as he runs a similar style of aggressive defense and driving to the basket.

While sizable underdogs, the Nittany Lions aren’t prohibitive dogs, so Vegas is at least acknowledging the uncertainty of having nearly an entirely new roster coming into this matchup.

Scouting the Opposition

The Aggies return Wade Taylor from a season ago, and his 6.9 steal rate come back with a vengeance. Like Penn State, A&M is not a proficient three-point shooting team, as they only have two folks over 35 percent shooting in Hayden Hunter and Tyrece Radford, the Middle Tennessee transfer. Manny Obaseki has a 40 percent rate on five shots, so if you’re looking for the hidden gem, that might be it. More importantly, only three people person on Texas A&M’s entire rotation are freshmen and sophomores, so this is quite the old squad capable, like the Lions’ a season ago, of taking over a game and running with it.

What to Watch For

Competition - How does Penn State fare against a team that isn’t a sub-200 squad? If the Lions can compete, it might tell us more about what could happen in the Big Ten.

First game away from home - The Nittany Lions played their first four games in the cavernous confines of Bryce Jordan. How will they do away from home?

Prediction

Having an brand-new team will come with unpredictable results. Don’t be surprised if the combination leads to an unpredictable result along the way. Today, however, might not be that day. Texas A&M 71, Penn State 65