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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
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Round of 64: A&M prepares for Penn State and the mental aspect of March Madness

Freshman+F+Solomon+Washington+%2813%29+and+Tyrece+Radford+%2823%29+during+a+game+vs.+Alabama+on+March+12%2C+2023+at+Bridgestone+Arena+in+Nashville+Tennessee.
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Freshman F Solomon Washington (13) and Tyrece Radford (23) during a game vs. Alabama on March 12, 2023 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Tennessee.

“It’s the greatest tournament in any sport in my opinion,” coach Buzz Williams said.
Thursday, March 16, marks Round 1 of six of the NCAA Tournament.
The best teams every Division 1 conference has to offer will compete in a win-or-go-home series that will allow one program to raise the gold detailed and sandblasted glass center trophy with the name “National Champion” engraved on the front.
However, in order for Texas A&M to reach this honor, it must fight through its onslaught of opponents in the Midwest region. Starting with a Big Ten opponent from State College, Pennsylvania.
“This is the first time we are playing a team we don’t know about since late December and there is a newness of ‘I don’t know you and I have never played against you. I don’t know all of your plays and whatever I learned was in a very short period of time,’” Williams said.
No. 10 seed Penn State is coming off a roller coaster of a season filled with many high moments … and a few low ones as well. The Nittany Lions started their conference play 4-8 before finishing their last 10 games 8-2 with a spot in the Big Ten Tournament Championship.
“I’ve really enjoyed studying them,” Williams said. “One of my former assistants from Marquette is on their staff. I do not know coach [Micah Shrewsberry]. He’s known as a very offensive, great ingenuity, 100 of plays and he’s done a phenomenal job.”
In just his second season as head coach, Shrewsberry has brought his team to the ‘Big Stage’ for the 10th time in the program’s history and the first time since 2011. With him, his a heavy-guard roster that can shoot the lights out from behind the 3-point line.”
“48% of their shots have come from 3, which is the eighth most 3s attempted in the United States,” Williams said. “They make 41% of them as a team, which is the third best. Their 3-point volume and 3-point percentage, combined, is the best 3-point shooting team in the country.”
Williams compared them to an SEC opponent A&M faced earlier in the season and in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on March 11.
“They play very similar to Vanderbilt,” Williams said. “They’re dependent, to some degree, on shooting 3s. Their foul rate is really low because most of their team stays outside the 3-point line. I think they turn it over the third least in the country because one player is making the decisions.”
That ‘one player’ is a 6-foot-6 senior guard who Williams described as the most effective player in the nation.
“No. 22 has the highest usage rate of any player we’ve played since we’ve been here,” Williams said. “His usage rate is 38%, which is just astronomical.”
You know what else is astronomical? The number of points, rebounds and assists per game Jalen Pickett averages. He leads his team – and A&M – in points, rebounds and assists with 17.9, 7.3 and 6.7, respectively.
“No. 22 has taken over 100 more shots than [Wade Taylor IV],” Williams said. “No. 22 has 100 more assists than No. 4 and has 150 more rebounds than No. 4.”
Every aspect of the game on the offensive end, Williams said, is run through Pickett.
“They play with a very low turnover rate and it’s partly because 22 is making most of their decisions,” Williams said. “He forces you to make decisions on how you are going to guard him. In accordance with your decision, that dictates where the ball is going”
All this information that Williams has learned has come from the short time period they were given following Selection Sunday on March 12, he said. This is just the first physiological obstacle the NCAA Tournament plays on a program.
“From Selection Sunday till now, the time seems to go very fast,” Williams said. “You’re trying to learn, research and figure out things on a team you have no concept of. You’re trying to figure out their players and their style of play. Trying to watch as many clips and games as possible.”
From timeouts to halftime, Williams said the game moves more differently than any other game the Aggies’ have played this season. It’ll be one of the many responsibilities the coaching staff must take into consideration before gametime.
“You have to be efficient with your words but you can’t be too wordy,” Williams said. “You have to figure out a way to be engaged during all of those breaks. I think each break is two and a half minutes. That’s when the horn sounds, which means it’s three minutes for when the ball is back in play.”
However, this isn’t the first time Williams has coached in this tournament before. Williams has appeared in eight NCAA Tournaments, four Sweet Sixteen appearances and one Elite Eight appearance.
“I think this will be my 19th NCAA Tournament game,” Williams said. “This will be my 9th first game. The games last forever. For everyone involved, everybody is anxious. Obviously, because of the money involved, the commercials are longer, the timeouts are longer, the introductions are longer and I don’t know how you rep that.”
During this time, Williams said he has recognized a common thread among National Championship teams.
“The more versatility you have the better,” Williams said. “Your ability to adapt on both ends of the floor probably allows you to have a better opportunity to advance because there are so many distinct styles of play … Those are the teams that advance.”
And more importantly, a guard.
“I think teams with really good guards always have a chance because they can make a play without a play being called,” Williams said. “They can make a play after the play didn’t work. I think teams that control the glass always have a chance … if you can control the glass you have a good chance at controlling the tempo. Those would be some common thread.”
In the end, only one team can advance at the end of each game. No matter if it’s the Aggies or the Nittany Lions, Williams said he is grateful for the many experiences his team has been through during this past season.
“There’s multiple guys in our program that are adults, or young adults, that have never had an opportunity to play on this stage,” Williams said “For things to have played out over the last 70 days the way that they’ve had, I think there are so many life lessons that’ll be healthy for them the rest of their life. Happy that they get to experience this, it’s the greatest tournament in any sport in my opinion.”

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