I like these odds
If there is anything to get you excited, it is that last night Penn State ventured out of 11th place in the Big Ten and gave that job to Indiana. That is right folks, we’re sitting on the basement stairs now instead of sitting in the basement. Lucky for us though, tonight is a chance to continue our rebellion against those teams that would like to put us down, so grab your pitchforks, we’re gonna rampage.
Well, now that I’ve gotten my yearly quota of medieval analogies out of the way, let’s talk basketball. Michigan State is one of those teams that could crush you on any given night, but at the same time they could play bad enough to let you think you have a chance to win. So the most important thing is being able to withstand the runs they will go on. A lot of the Penn State roster has players on it that haven’t ever played in front of the Izzone before, so if there is a chance that the Lions can take the crowd out of it early, they should really try and capitalize on that.
Since these teams have last played, Penn State won 3 of its last 4 only having lost to Ohio State in a game that they were very much in for most of the second half. And to quote the Big Ten Geeks:
Penn State is looking like a team nobody wants to face in the Big Ten Tournament. Consider their month of February: the Nittany Lions played 7 games and finished the month with a 3-4 record. The average Pomeroy rating of their opponents (as of this morning) was 39.9, and their overall efficiency margin for the month was an even zero. It’s admittedly a small sample size, but this suggests that Penn State has been playing like a top 50 team in the month of February, and they’ve climbed up to #88 in Pomeroy’s rating
While it is true that your record is your record, Penn State shouldn’t be a team that is taken lightly. Do I think Tom Izzo will take them lightly? Not a chance, with a Big Ten title on the line, and March Madness seeding on the line, there should be plenty of motivation for MSU to get up and play.
Penn State does have a chance to throw a wrench into things in their next and last two games before the Big Ten tourney. A win against Michigan State or Purdue would probably make their title hopes and seeding hopes a lot bleaker. Penn State on the other hand only needs to go 1-1 in these two games to have a good shot at keeping the #10 seed in the Big Ten and even move into the 9th seed. That might seem like a waste, but as of yesterday, the 10th seed would be the difference between playing Northwestern in the first round, a team Penn State has owned this year, and playing Minnesota.
Depending on what Lucas does this offseason, there is a chance that this is the last match-up between Battle and Lucas; maybe one of the more underrated match-ups in the game, but still a blast to watch every time it happens. Regardless of the outcome, you know those two players are going to leave it all on the court. Defensively Penn State just needs to stick to assignments, don’t let the Spartans take open threes, but don’t compromise any inside help defense because of it. Tim Frazier needs to get comfortable with the ball if the Lions are going to stay in it. A hostile crowd, coupled with tough defense really makes this game a measuring stick of how this year has gone for him. If he is able to operate with the ball to get Talor looks off of screens that will be huge.
Does Penn State have a chance to win? Of course, but it going to mean they continue their 50% or more shooting from the field and hit down the free ones when they get them. The inside-outside success they have had is going to be the difference in the game. If it becomes an jump shot only game, they will lose; but if the Lions can establish some inside game they have a chance, it is as simple as that. Back when Penn State beat Michigan the topic of dish and drives came up in the press conference. It is simple, but if you can drive and dish it out, that will go a long way. Penn State sort of stayed away from that against Ohio State, but you might see it come back tonight in East Lansing.
Oh, by the way….score, last time these teams met, Izzo made our boy Ed look stupid really outcoaching him down the stretch which lead to a massive scoring drought. If that happens tonight, they’ll get run out of the building, simple as that.