After a crazy first round, the Nittany Lions are still alive in the tournament. Owners of one of the most impressive wins of the first round, Penn State now takes on another flagship Texas school when it faces the No. 2-seed Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns finished the season on a tear, beating Kansas handily to end the regular season and once again in the Big 12 Tournament. If Penn State wants to make it to the second weekend, they’re going to need to play just as well, if not better than they did on Thursday.
Texas is chock full of talent and athleticism, and, unlike Texas A&M, has the ability to force Jalen Pickett into tough situations. They also can light up the scoreboard from three, which could spell trouble for the Lions if their own shots aren’t falling. To say a victory in this game is going to be a gargantuan effort is an understatement. After all, Texas is the two seed for a reason.
Scouting the Opposition
Remember Marcus Carr? Well, he’s still around, has a luscious mane, and is leading the charge for Texas. Sir’Jabari Rice shot seven threes for Texas against Colgate, so the Lions weren’t the only ones burning the next in the first round —the Longhorns also shot 13 threes on Thursday. Timmy Allen and Brock Cunningham will likely be the two guards to look out for when it comes to slowing down Pickett, and, of course, Dylan Disu is going to be a problem and a half inside.
While Texas shoots the ball well from three, only Cunningham shoots better than 37.2 percent, and they don’t take anywhere near as many threes as Penn State does. They do, however, rely (albeit less heavily than A&M) in turnovers, transition defense, and offensive rebounds to keep teams at bay. If Penn State can continue to play their game, they may end up forcing Texas to do exactly what A&M did two days ago.
What to Watch For
Hot start - Penn State needs to start hot in order to stay in the game. If they get down against Texas early, it could spell trouble for the Lions.
Defensive rebounding - If there is one thing to be concerned about from Thursday’s game, is how many extra opportunities the Aggies got on the offensive glass. If Penn State routinely allows Texas have two, three, even four extra opportunities, well, that’s likely game over.
Who’s turn is it? - Andrew Funk lit up the scoreboard on Thursday. Who will be the person to come out on fire in this game? Penn State will certainly need a huge performance from someone other than Pickett to win this game. Maybe even two.
Look, I think Texas is the best team in the country when it plays its best and that’s why I have them picked to win the national championship - you can even check my bracket on our BSD bracket challenge. At the same time, there are some major 2001 vibes happening with Penn State this March. Shoot it like they did on Thursday and the Lions can absolutely win this game. But, I’m thinking Penn State comes back down to earth a bit and the better overall team wins. Having said that, this Penn State team has proven me wrong time and time again this season - I’ll happily let that be the case again. Regardless of what happens, this has been a fun finish to a successful season.
Texas 76, Penn State 65
Apparently I have to be wishy washy in every game prediction, since it worked on Thursday?
Listen, this is on at the same time as the NCAA wrestling finals and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll have two tvs set up (much like I did during the Big Ten tourney finals). It worked then—will it work now? And honestly, who cares? This team has been so fun, and I love them so much. What a ride.
Texas 74, Penn State 71
The ‘Horns as a whole are capable of lighting up a scoreboard, especially Sir’Jabari Rice, who played an Andrew Funk-type role in Texas’ waxing of Colgate, nailing seven threes off the bench. Hopefully, Texas will focus so hard on shutting down Funk that it leave his other strong-shooting teammates open for quality looks. While on paper, this is one that 5-point favorite Texas should win, it’s also March and this PSU team has a knack for getting it done as an underdog. Why not do it again?
Penn State 77, Texas 74
The Longhorns are one of the best teams in the nation, boasting a top-tier offense and defense. Fortunately for Penn State, the Nittany Lions are in such a groove offensively, that I’m not sure many teams will be able to stop them. This one has all the makings of a high-scoring, up-and-down affair that really should be one of the most fun games of March Madness. I picked against Penn State a few days ago, so I’m not going to stop now.
Texas 82, Penn State 76
Each subsequent game from here on out will be harder than the next. And, while I initially thought the Lions would be under pressure, I now realize it’s the exact opposite. Penn State already reached its goals. This is a team of scrappy dudes playing with house money. This game won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but, as my kids know based on how many times it’s repeated to them, “we do hard things.” This team does hard things.
Penn State 89, Texas 86