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Penn State vs Texas Predictions, Odds, and Picks: Longhorns Stifle Nittany Lions

Penn State's been a great turnaround program this season, but its impressive run should come to an end against a Texas squad that our March Madness picks think is better at just about everything.

Last Updated: Mar 18, 2023 11:16 AM ET Read Time: 4 min

Our March Madness picks roll on in the Midwest Region as the No. 10 seed Penn State Nittany Lions (23-13) battle the No. 2 seed Texas Longhorns (27-8) in the Round of 32 on March 18.

These are two of the hottest teams in America, which makes for some interesting March Madness odds for their Saturday clash. 

Penn State has won nine of its last 11 games, catching fire in the Big Ten Tournament and soundly defeating No. 7 seed Texas A&M in the First Round.

Texas went wild in the Big 12 tournament to capture the conference title and has won five straight, including an 81-61 First Round win over trendy No. 15 seed Colgate.

Which team stays hot and advances to the Sweet 16? Check out our college basketball picks and predictions for Penn State vs. Texas to find out. 

Penn State vs Texas best odds

Penn State vs Texas picks and predictions

Texas dealt well with a surprise coaching change midway through the season. After the Chris Beard debacle in which the head coach was fired in January just eight games into the season, the Longhorns have rallied under interim head coach Rodney Terry while remaining among the best teams in the nation.

The Longhorns check in at fifth overall in KenPom. They are proficient on both ends of the court, ranking 17th in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency. 

They have a 14-8 record in Quad 1 games and a 4-0 record in Quad 2 games. Highlights of the season include a 19-point win over Gonzaga and two wins over Kansas — the second of which was to win the Big 12 Tournament. There are no bad losses on the resume as all eight defeats qualify as a Quad 1 game — although allowing 116 points in a loss to Kansas State is definitely a demerit. Altogether, this is the resume of a National Championship contender. 

Penn State went from a mostly-nondescript team to a postseason monster. It won five of its last six games entering the Big Ten Tournament and then won three games in three days and fell to Purdue by just two points in the finals. 

The Nittany Lions check in at 33rd overall in KenPom thanks to a deadly offense ranking 13th in efficiency, although the defense lags behind at 95th in efficiency. Guard Jalen Pickett is a folk hero as one of the most productive players in the nation, averaging 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists — all tops on his team by a sizable margin.

The offense revolves around Pickett getting into the lane and kicking the ball out to shooters. The Nittany Lions rank 10th in the percentage of shots they take that come from behind the arc (47.4%), fifth in made 3-pointers per game (10.5), and sixth in 3-point shooting (39%). 

This leads to the natural question — how good is Texas at defending the arc? The Longhorns allow just 6.1 made 3-pointers per game (71st) on 32.4% (99th) while grading out 33rd in Haslametric’s adjusted 3-point defense metric. In other words, pretty good but not necessarily great. 

Texas can get it done from all three levels offensively, ranking 21st in Haslametric’s adjusted 3-point shooting measure, 69th from the mid-range, and 26th in near-proximity shooting. Penn State walls off the rim defensively, allowing just the fifth-lowest percentage of shots at the rim (28.7%), but have liabilities virtually everywhere else. The Nittany Lions rank just 217th in non-transition effective field goal percentage allowed.

I expect Texas to be able to score against a beatable Penn State defense, while the Longhorns’ defense is arguably the best unit on the floor for either team. If the Longhorns play their A-game, they should be able to advance comfortably, as they are the more complete team and have more paths to covering this spread. 

My best bet: Texas -5 (-112 at BetRivers)

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Penn State vs Texas spread analysis

The spread is set between -5 and -5.5 in Texas’ favor depending on the book. 

Texas notched a 20-point victory over Colgate in the First Round thanks to five first-half 3-pointers from guard Sir’Jabari Rice and 17 points respectively from both Marcus Carr and Dylan Disu. Colgate is the nation’s top 3-point shooting team at 40.8% but Texas was able to run the Raiders off the arc and limit them to just 3-15 on 3-point shots. Terry will hope to find the same success in Round 2 against a great shooting team in Penn State. 

Penn State had one of the most impressive first-round victories on Thursday with a 76-59 demolition of Texas A&M. The Aggies entered the contest as one of the hottest teams in the nation, with 10 wins in their last 12 games, but the Nittany Lions shut all that down and more in a wire-to-wire masterclass. Andre Funk led the way with 27 points, a new program record in the NCAA Tournament. 

Micah Shrewsberry has undeniably done a fantastic job in Happy Valley. His second season has been a great success regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game against Texas — and that’s my worry in this spot. The Nittany Lions have been punching above their weight for a while now and run up against a Texas team that is simply better at most areas of the game. If Penn State gets hot from 3-point range, it can pull off the upset. Texas is a great defensive team, however, and already has wins over great shooting teams like Gonzaga and Baylor.

Penn State vs Texas Over/Under analysis

As of writing, the total resides at either 140 or 140.5 depending on the book, so be sure to shop around as always. 

Penn State has been an Over team through and through with a 20-15-1 O/U record. What’s remarkable is that it’s been able to do so despite playing at such a slow tempo 

This game is difficult to project from a pace perspective as Texas ranks 100th in adjusted tempo while Penn State checks in at 319th. The Longhorns generally look to get out and run on offense but that will prove difficult against a Nittany Lions team that allows the 27th-lowest percentage of shots in transition while ranking 13th in effective field goal defense in transition. 

Penn State’s defense certainly isn’t great and that’s why I believe its Cinderella run will end in the Round of 32, but I can admit the Nittany Lions have been better on that end of the court lately. They have allowed 70 points or more in just three of their last eight games albeit seven of those games coming against NCAA Tournament teams.

I lean toward the Under as Penn State will look to keep the tempo slow and Texas will look to assert its vastly superior defense. The Under is 6-0 in the Longhorns’ last six games overall and is 4-0 in their last four neutral site games. 

Penn State vs Texas betting trend to know

Texas is 6-0 ATS in its last six games. Find more college basketball betting trends for Penn State vs. Texas.

Penn State vs Texas game info

Region: Midwest
Location: Wells Fargo Center, Des Moines, IA
Date: Saturday, March 18, 2023
Tip-off: 7:45 p.m. ET

Penn State vs Texas key injuries


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