Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#811 Penn State vs.
#812 Texas
Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 7:45pm EDT
Written by Mark Ruelle


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The NCAA Tournament field is down to 32 teams entering play on Saturday and the Midwest Region offers an intriguing matchup of two red-hot teams as the 10th-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions get set to take on the 2nd-seeded Texas Longhorns. Penn State, the runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament, thrashed Texas A&M on Thursday night to reach the field of 32. Meanwhile, the Longhorns easily dispatched Colgate on Thursday. The opening tap is scheduled for 7:45 PM EDT.

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Nittany Lions Keep on Roaring

The Penn State Nittany Lions proved that their run to the Big Ten Tournament title game was not a fluke with a 76-59 win over 7th-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday night. The Nittany Lions shot lights-out from 3pt range, hitting on nearly 60% of their long-range attempts. The win was the first in the NCAA Tournament for Penn State since 2001. The veteran Nittany Lions squad was led by a record-setting night by senior Andrew Funk. Funk hit eight three-point field goals in the game to break the school record for three-point field goals in a game. Funk finished with 27 points overall, the most ever by a Nittany Lions player in the NCAA Tournament. All-American Jalen Pickett had another stat-stuffing performance with 19 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists in the win. Pickett played the entire game and failed to commit a turnover.

"I thought our attention to detail on defense and offense was really good, and that's the benefit of having an older group of guys that can execute a scouting report on offense and defense, and we did that. We played hard and we gave ourselves a chance to win." PSU head coach Micah Shrewsberry said after the win.

Penn State now has 23 wins on the season and has improved to 10-5 against tournament teams this season. The Nittany Lions are scoring at an average of 72.3 points per game this season and drilling over 10 3pt field goals per contest. Penn State's defense is allowing 66.2 points per game and holding the opposition to just 40.5% shooting from the field. The Nittany Lions will be tasked to once again try and control the tempo and hit the open shot to advance against the defensive-minded Longhorns.

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Longhorns Keep the Train Moving

The Texas Longhorns won their 27th game of the season and the 20th since interim head coach Rodney Terry took over with an 81-61 win over Colgate on Thursday. Colgate, a veteran-laden team, was a trendy pick to pull off an upset but Texas' three-point shooting and suffocating defense put that talk to rest by early in the second half. Texas shot 13-of-23 from 3pt range, a school record 56% in tournament play, to pull away from Colgate. Defensively, the Longhorns held the nation's #1 3pt shooting team to 3-of-15 from long range. Sir'Jabari Rice led the way with 23 points, including 7-of-10 from long range. Marcus Carr contributed 17 points while shooting 4-of-6 from 3pt range. Dylan Disu had 17 points as well, along with 10 rebounds for a double-double in just 22 minutes.

Texas head coach Terry put to rest concerns about his NCAA Tournament inexperience with the team's resounding first-round victory. Now, Terry and the Longhorns run up against another senior-heavy team when they battle Penn State on Saturday. Texas comes in averaging nearly 78 points per game and shooting 47% from the floor. The Longhorns are allowing 66.2 points per game and just 32% from long range, which will be critical against a Penn State team that lives behind the arc. Texas will also be tasked to force turnovers, the Longhorns have a +4.5 turnover margin, against a Nittany Lions' team that keeps the ball in Pickett's capable hands.



Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

Insiders Status:


I can't turn away from a Penn State team that has thrived in close games down the stretch. The Nittany Lions are 5-0 ATS in their last five games and have gone 9-0 ATS in their last nine games as the underdog. In addition, Penn State has won six of its last seven games against tournament teams and covered the spread in each game. Further, the veteran Penn State team is not easily rattled and performs well above average in neutral site games. Penn State is 9-1 ATS in its last ten neutral site games. I expect Pickett to protect the basketball and create opportunities for his teammates throughout the game. Texas, which likes to move quickly, will be forced to adjust to Penn State's methodical pace of play and I expect this game to be a one-possession contest heading into the final two minutes. With that in mind, points are critical and I will happily take the 5.5 on the board.

Take Penn State.

Prediction: Penn State +5.5

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Full-Game Total Pick

Insiders Status:


This is truly a matchup of contrasting styles. Texas wants to create turnovers and score in transition. The Longhorns are 91st in the nation in pace of play. Meanwhile, Penn State wants to play possession to possession, work the clock and run its offense through Pickett in the paint with four shooters around the perimeter. Penn State ranks 313th in the country in pace of play. Texas has actually gone under the total in six straight games. Penn State has played under the total in two straight games and in five of its last eight games. More than ever, I expect Penn State to milk the shot clock each possession against a Texas team that loves to play the passing lanes. Pickett will control pace and protect the ball en route to a low-scoring matchup.

Take the under.

Prediction: Under 139.5

Written By Mark Ruelle , "Mark Ruelle"

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.