Nebraska vs. Texas A&M expert picks: Spread, odds, projections for NCAA Tournament first round game

It’s a former Big 12 meeting when Nebraska and Texas A&M will meet in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. The Cornhuskers are small favorites in this No. 8 vs. No. 9 game.

If Nebraska wins, it will be the Cornhuskers’ first-ever win in an NCAA Tournament game. Nebraska is the last power conference team without a win in the tourney.


Strengths: The Cornhuskers have placed opponents in a sleeper hold over the past several weeks. Over their final 10 regular-season games, they ranked top five nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, conceding only 44.8 percent from two and 29 percent from three. Stifling. On the scoring side, Fred Hoiberg’s squad is often prolific from the perimeter. Keisei Tominaga, Brice Williams, C.J. Wilcher, Jamarques Lawrence and Rienk Mast each shoot at least 34 percent from distance. Overall, nearly 45 percent of their shots come from outside.

Weaknesses: Cupcake city best sums up Nebraska’s non-conference strength of schedule (No. 322 in the country). Outside of a win against lackluster Kansas State in December and a loss to Creighton, the Cornhuskers weren’t often challenged beyond the Big Ten. As a below-average rebounding team, the Huskers are also vulnerable if matched against a formidable interior. Most unsettling, they were just 5-9 in road and neutral games.

Outlook: Doing its best Michigan State impression, the Huskers are peaking at the most opportune time. Yes, their suspect play away from Lincoln is well documented, but Tominaga, when on, is an absolute flamethrower. Just ask Purdue. Nebraska’s outside execution combined with its oxygen-depriving defense labels it a sleeper. Top seeds beware.

—Brad Evans

Texas A&M

Strengths: This is a capable, athletic team with two guards — Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford — who have put opponents in blenders. A third, Manny Obaseki, is surging late in the season. The Aggies are top 60 in offensive and defensive efficiency and top 50 in steal percentage, a reflection of the variety of pressure strategies coach Buzz Williams employs. The Aggies beat Kentucky twice, Tennessee, Iowa State and Florida and gave Houston a great game, so high-end winning potential is there. And A&M leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (40 percent).

Weaknesses: The opportunities for offensive rebounds are plentiful because this is a terrible shooting team. They’re around the 350s nationally in effective field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and Taylor is shooting the best among Aggies who have taken 50 or more from long range — at 31.5 percent. Texas A&M also has lost way too many close games for having veteran guards, some to bad teams, including Vanderbilt and Arkansas (twice). Texas A&M has athletic length in players like Solomon Washington and Henry Coleman III, but offensive creation is all on the guards.

Outlook: Radford can get wherever he wants to go with his hesitation dribbles and bursts of speed. Taylor is a nightmare for defenders and creates shots for his teammates. When Taylor also hits some of his own from deep — and when Radford doesn’t settle for too many of those shots — the Aggies look more like the team they were supposed to be. It’s hard to count on that to show up every night in the NCAA Tournament, but no opponent should relish drawing the Aggies. Kentucky sure didn’t in a 97-87 SEC tourney upset loss to them.

—Joe Rexrode

What: South Region, First Round

Tipoff time: 6:50 p.m. ET Friday


Location: Memphis

Nebraska vs. Texas A&M odds

Odds are from BetMGM and update live. Find the best ticket deals on StubHub to see your favorite team.

Expert picks

Model projection: Nebraska by 1, total 148

See Austin Mock’s best futures bets

Players to watch


  • Keisei Tominaga, senior guard, second-team All-Big Ten
  • Rienk Mast, junior forward, third team All-Big Ten

Texas A&M

  • Wade Taylor IV, junior guard, first-team All-SEC
  • Andersson Garcia, senior forward, All-SEC defensive team

More NCAA men’s basketball tournament coverage

(Photo of Keisei Tominaga: David Berding / Getty Images)

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