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The second round of the tournament begins today, as there are now 31 teams left in the field (Furman lost to SDSU earlier today). After defeating Texas A&M 76-59 in the first round, Texas faces a very hot Penn State team that is currently playing well.
Sure, this happened after the Aggies complained for one week straight about how “screwed” they were with the seedings. Maybe they did, but they didn’t do themselves any favors after blowing a huge stink about how “humiliated” they were.
You want a better seed? Play better competition. It’s very easy guys. It’s not like football, where it’s in your best interest to play a crappy non-con schedule so you can make the playoffs. Playing better teams in college basketball gives you an advantage because seeding is so important. Buzz Williams copied the Jimbo Fisher model to crush bad teams and artificially inflate his wins.
Texas played some really bad teams too, but they also played Gonzaga, Creighton and Illinois at MSG. Then they finished second in a major conference. Similarly you get a 2-seed. Also, maybe 20, win the SEC championship instead of losing to A&M. just a thought. They ended their season with back-to-back 20-point losses.
Anyway, the Nittany Lions’ offense is running like Limp Bizkit in 1999 (shout out Fred Durst). They got hot at the right time, winning nine of their last 11 to get themselves into the NCAA.
It won’t be easy for the Longhorns, as Penn State is pretty scary from an offensive standpoint.
Penn State Strength.
Here’s some background on the Penn State offense, which I wrote about earlier this week:
Penn State, like Colgate, shoots all three very well, sixth in the nation at 39%. He ranks fifth in the nation in three-pointers per game (10.5) and 13th in three-point attempts at 27.1/game.
Penn State’s biggest offensive issue is that they are nearly dead last of 366 teams in free-throw attempts and makes per game. They don’t attack the basket a ton, 319th in the nation in two-point attempts per game at 30.1. For this reason, he also does not rebound particularly well, as he ranks 362nd in offensive rebounds per game.
Basically they hit you deep, but as they live by all three, they also die by all three. As in the Colgate game, Texas would have to rely on its perimeter defense to contain the Nittany Lions’ onslaught of bombs.
Texas needs to focus its energy on protecting the perimeter as opposed to packing the paint. They will need to fight on screens, as they will get killed if they play drop coverage against the Nittany Lions guard. Check out the stats below to see just how deadly this team is from deep.
Andrew Funk Perhaps his best is the sharpshooter, who is a pretty cool 42.0% on 7.3 attempts/game. He rained absolute hell out of Texas A&M in the Round of 64, hitting eight threes on 10 attempts and scoring 27 points. His was the same game that Sir Jabari Rice played against Colgate; He just couldn’t remember anything. Of course that would be a problem. Watch his range in the clip below.
seth lundy Also a great shooter from deep, averaging 40.2% on 6.4 attempts per game. He had just 10 against the Aggies, and was fairly incompetent, but most of the team was pointing to Funk anyway because of his hot shooting hands. If the Longhorns leave him, or any of these, open, he’s going to be a problem.
Last but certainly not least, Penn State also has a second-team All-American. Jalen Pickett.
Puckett (17.9 Pts, 7.3 Reb, 6.7 Ast) is Penn State’s alpha, their leader in points, assists and rebounds. The guy was voted one of the best 10 players in the country this season, so even trying to stick him throughout the game might not work.
The problem is, you can’t double Pickett because he has all the shooting options he has at his disposal, so it will take a valiant effort to stop him. I think Rodney Terry will probably just try to tackle Pickett, which is also a risky move, but less than twice as bad.
Either way, Texas is in for a tough matchup when they’re on their side of the floor. Stopping Penn State is no easy task, and it is going to take a colossal effort on the defensive end.
Penn State Weaknesses.
on the boards and in the foul shooting game where the teams beat Penn State. The Nittany Lions ranked 294th in rebounds per game (32.6) and 362nd out of 363 teams in free-throw attempts at only 12.4 per game.
He ranks 359th in free-throw makes at 9.0/game. He ranks 358th in steals (4.4) and 328th in blocks (2.2). Additionally, he ranks 292nd in personal fouls at 15.6 per game. He missed 13 games this year, including losses to Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Wisconsin and Rutgers.
Are they getting hot now? Yes, but for one thing, Texas is also scorching hot. Penn State isn’t unbeatable by any means, and they aren’t even close to the best Texas teams this year, including Kansas (twice), Kansas State on the road, TCU (twice), Gonzaga, Creighton and Baylor . Given that many of these games were at home, they were still able to win what were essentially road games in the Big XII Championship, and did so for 20 years.
But it’s March, so let’s throw some of that out the window.
If you’re a Texas fan, you’re probably a little nervous about the Nittany Lions’ three-point snipers, but overall, should feel good about the game. Penn State has many exploitable weaknesses.
If I’m Rodney Terry, I’ll do what I’ve been doing early in games and just feed to Dylan DeSu, get points in the paint early and possibly get defenders to help in lanes, I procrastinate my work. This gives guys like Sarjabari Rice, Marcus Carr, and Tyrese Hunter room to shoot threes, and try to beat Penn State at their own game (like they did to Colgate).
While I think Texas is the better team, I don’t think they are going to take out the Nittany Lions (though I do think the Longhorns win). The Nittany Lions are too talented offensively to afford to lose in such an important game. I don’t think Jalen Pickett won’t allow them a big loss, and they have plenty of shooters and space on the floor in their five-out offense.
Texas would win the game with Dylan DeSu, Christian Bishop, Brock Cunningham and Dillon Mitchell scoring. They have to paint and protect the perimeter. If they can do both of those things, I like their chances of advancing to their first Sweet 16 since 2008.