Texas A&M enters the second round of the NIT without leading scorer Danuel House, who has missed the last two games due to a foot injury and is not expected to play tonight. House is averaging 14.8 points per game and is an integral component to the Aggies’ backcourt. Without House, the scoring will be left to the only other double-digit scorer on the team – guard Jalen Jones.
Texas A&M is averaging 67.6 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 65.8 points per game, thereby making the Aggies a pedestrian 1.8 points per game better than average offensively. Of course, those numbers become even worse without the presence of House on the court.
Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech is allowing 65.1 points per game to teams that would combine to average 66.9 points per game, thereby making the Bulldogs 1.8 points per game better than average defensively this season.
The Bulldogs also rank 10th in the nation in blocked shots per game (5.7) so their presence will certainly be felt in the paint tonight. My models actually give the Bulldogs an advantage defensively over Texas A&M’s attack, and that edge only becomes more significant with the absence of House.
Motivation reins supreme in these lower-profile postseason tournaments like the NIT, and the Bulldogs possesses that competitive edge. “We will come out swinging for sure,” Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White said. “We are a program that struggles to get high major opportunities, especially good ones, on the schedule and we have failed miserably at getting any of them to come to Ruston. Fortunately for the NIT, it is another opportunity against a high-level opponent that we are paired up with.”
Listening to coach White makes it abundantly clear that his squad is looking forward to tonight’s opportunity against an SEC foe like Texas A&M. “Our guys will play very hard and be very excited and we will have to. On top of being very excited, we will have to play really well because Texas A&M is a team that arguably should have been in the NCAA Tournament. They are really good. They are terrific defensively. They are very talented. They are big, strong and physical and it will be a tough test for us.”
Louisiana Tech has a history of playing well in the NIT as the Bulldogs knocked off Georgia on the road in the second round of last year’s tournament. “With the quick turn and with the circumstances, the character of our locker room and the leadership of the guys within that locker room have been good enough to stay hungry and to play with some edge and show people that we are pretty good,” White said following his team’s opening-round win over Central Michigan.
Louisiana Tech possesses a very capable offense that is 6.0 points per game better than average (73.2 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 67.2 points per game), which actually gives the Bulldogs an advantage over a Texas A&M stop unit that is 5.7 points per game better than average (62.3 points per game to teams that would combine to average 68.0 points per game).
I also like the fact that Louisiana Tech takes excellent care of the ball, ranking 4th nationally in turnover margin (5.0). From a technical standpoint, Louisiana Tech is 15-6 ATS on the road following three or more consecutive home games, 4-1 ATS in its last five games against .601 or greater opposition, 11-4 ATS after winning two of its last three games and 58-33 ATS on the road versus teams with a win percentage between .600 and .800.
Louisiana Tech is the better team at both ends of the floor in this matchup, and the bloated home favorite is playing without its leading scorer. The Bulldogs also possesses the motivational edge in this game. Grab the generous points and invest with confidence.