Tuesday Night Links
- Suton should be ready to go for Penn State
Apparently it was the flu.
- Checking in on the… Big Ten
Big Ten is as slow as ever: 62 possessions per game in conference play to date.
- 2005 West Virginia vs. 2009 Michigan
Uncanny tempo-free resemblance on offense.
- The Problem(s) With Iowa Basketball
Executive summary: Only one big man, only one point guard.
Penn State Game Preview
6:30 Wednesday night. The Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pennsylvania. Big Ten Network.
(Note: Let’s just go ahead and assume that last year’s match-up between these two teams in this venue has no predictive value for looking at this year’s game and, therefore, not talk about it.)
Penn State enters this game with a 13-4 record, including a 2-2 mark in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions had only one win of note in nonconference play, beating Georgia Tech on the road; their two losses came to Rhode Island and Temple.
In conference play, they’ve held court at home against Northwestern and Purdue (in a game Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer missed due to injuries–which isn’t to discount the game as a quality win) while losing to Wisconsin and Minnesota (badly) on the road.
Penn State’s tempo-free profile says they do two things very well on offense:
- Hold on to the ball: OffTO% of 17.1%.
- Shoot the three: 3pt% of 39.2%.
Not coincidentally, these are two things their star player, 5’11” sophomore point guard Talor Battle, also does well: 13.0% TO rate, 41.2% 3pt%. Battle has been a breakout star this season, averaging 18.9 points, 5.5 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game. His efficiency has gone down a bit in Big Ten play, though; he comes into this game having hit only 5 of 20 three-point attempts in his last three games.
6’1″ guard senior Stanley Pringle is Penn State’s second leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points per game on 51.4% 3-point shooting. 6’5″ senior forward Jamelle Cornley chips in 13.9 points per game.
Tom Izzo will assign Travis Walton and Kalin Lucas to harass Battle for 40 minutes and try to prevent him from getting into a rhythm. And MSU’s perimeter defense will need to continue to play seamlessly to avoid giving up clean 3-point looks to the Lions. Spartan opponents have made just 24 of 86 three-point attempts (27.9%) over the last four games.
Defensively, Penn State isn’t quite as formidable, ranking 132nd in the nation in adjusted efficiency (vs. 51st on offense). They have, however, improved remarkably on the defensive boards, holding opponents to an offensive rebounding percentage of 25.5%. Cornley, Battle, and sophomores Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks all sport defensive rebounding percentages of 16.0%. Second chances may be more difficult to come by than usual–although Goran Suton (20 offensive rebounds in his last 5 games) will have something to say about that.
Penn State isn’t all that deep: only seven players play 10 minutes or more per game, and Battle and Cornley both play 34+ minutes per game. If MSU can rebound missed threes regularly, that should lead to some fast-break opportunities. We should be able to wear down Penn State with our depth on both ends of the court. And, having predicted some poor games for Raymar Morgan in recent weeks, I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s comes up big in this game. The Lions don’t have any defenders with notable block rates.
This is an intriguing match-up: An up-and-comer trying to prove it can play with a top-ten team on its home court vs. a powerhouse trying to prove it’s found the consistency to systematically beat teams with lesser talent on the road. And it’s a match-up of two lighting-quick point guards vying for all-conference honors.
Kenpom predicts a 73-69 MSU win in a 66-possession game.