A few noteworthy items before we get to the game preview.
Ford Field Still a Possibility?
Joe Rexrode lays out the possibility that MSU could still play at Ford Field in the regional semifinals/finals. He notes this would be a function of going in as a low seed, though, and therefore having a reduced shot at actually advancing to the regional location. I vote for finishing strong and getting a 3 or 4 seed in another beautiful region of this great nation.
The Tempo-Free Aerial Gets More Depressing
The last time we looked at the Big Ten tempo-free aerial, there was still a pretty well defined group of give top-tier teams, in which our Spartans occupied a spot. Now, not so much:
(I apologize for the fuzziness. My computer is being uncooperative this evening.)
Purdue has drifted out toward IU and Wisconsin, while MSU has moved leftward toward the less tournament-worthy section of the conference. Our offense is now precisely as efficient as Illinois’ and Minnesota’s. This is very bad.
You can argue the numbers are skewed because of the Iowa game, in which MSU only scored 0.64 points per game. But, of course, Illinois only scored 0.65 points/possession against MSU. So those two teams are even in terms of the outliers. The bottom line is that this team has been unmistakably mediocre on offense in conference play.
About Those Two Teams at the Far Right
They played each other tonight in Bloomington. Indiana prevailed 77-68. D.J. White’s knee didn’t appear to be bothering him too much. He put up 19 points and 15 rebounds in 36 minutes. Eric Gordon did what Eric Gordon does these days: struggled from the field (4-12) but racked up points at the line (13-15).
Three-point shooting was the statistical Achilles Heel for Purdue. They made just 7 of 29 attempts (24.1%). Take away Robbie Hummel’s 3-6 from beyond the arc, and the rest of the Boilermakers made just 4 of 23 attempts (17.4%). IU prevailed despite turning it over 18 times more than Purdue did (23 vs. 5).
So we now have this transitive property-defying circle of events in Big Ten play:
- Purdue beat Wisconsin both times they played.
- Wisconsin beat IU both times they played.
- IU beat Purdue the one (and only) time they played.
All three teams now have two losses. Should be a photo finish for the conference crown.
Finally, A Game Preview
7:00 Wednesday. Breslin Center. Potentially the last BTN game of the season
The last time these two teams met, of course, the result was not a good one for MSU. That game was, however, a statistical outlier for MSU. It’s the only one of their five losses in which they didn’t turn the ball over on more than 25.0% of their possessions, as they gave it up on just 14.5% of possessions. If they can hold on to the ball again, and not allow Penn State to rack up 85 points, they should win this one comfortably. Hopefully, it’s not the same set of refs from the game in Happy Valley.
Since that game, Penn State lost two road games to Purdue and Michigan and then beat Illinois in a 52-51 barn burner at home. They now stand at 4-8 in conference play.
Penn State’s statistical strength is getting a lot of opportunities to shoot. They turn the ball over on only 19.1% of possessions and have a respectable offensive rebounding % of 36.6%. They don’t do much with those opportunities, though, putting up shooting percentages of .475/.338/.607 (2-point/3-point/FT). MSU will want to keep an eye on freshman point guard Talor Battle, who has now scored in double figures in his last six games.
On defense, they’ve allowed opponents to gather offensive rebounds on only 31.6% of opportunities over the course of the season. But they’ve allowed 3 of their last 4 opponents (including MSU) to put up offensive rebounding percentages of 40% or more. MSU needs to get its rebounding mojo back after two straight games with offensive rebounding percentages in the low 20s.
Kenpom says MSU 72, Penn State 60.