Your MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS vs. the PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
THE BRYCE JORDAN CENTER, UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA
SATURDAY, NOON (ET)
TV: ESPN (O'Brien/Lavin)
ONLINE RADIO FEED: WJR
ENEMY BLOGS: Black Shoe Diaries, The 22,000+
Nittany Lion bullets:
- Overall record of 8-15; winless in 11 Big Ten outings.
- Key win: On the road against Virginia.
- Five Big Ten losses by 6 points or fewer, including a one-point loss to Illinois on the road. Plus they took Wisconsin to OT (eventually losing by 8) in Madison. This team is extremely dangerous by zero-for-eleven-in-conference-play standards.
- KenPom ranking of #109. #115 on offense, #132 on defense.
- Eight Penn State players average more than 10 minutes per game. Only one is averaging double-digit points. Guess who.
We're less than 18 hours from this game, so we'll keep it short and sweet. On offense, Penn State has really only excelled at holding on to the ball. Beyond that, it's basically a case of seeing what Talor Battle can create on offense. Battle is averaging 19.1 points, 3.8 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game, leading the team in all three categories. Despite opposing defenses being able to focus their efforts on Battle, he's posted a respectable .476/.342/.707 shooting line so far this season. And he's in a pretty good groove right now, having scored 20+ points in 6 of the past 7 games.
David Jackson has been the most efficient Nittany Lion this season in a supporting role, averaging 9.1 points per game on a .533/.366/.779 shooting line. The Lions don't have much of an interior presence on offense.
Despite the lack of star big men, Penn State has excelled at keeping their opponents off the offensive glass, ranking second in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. They're not so great with the perimeter defense, though, only forcing turnovers on 16.5% of possessions and allow their opponents to shoot 36.8% on 3-pointers. Their opponents have attempted 3-pointers on 37.9% of FG attempts, indicating a preference for zone defense (although the defensive rebounding prowess would point away from a zone approach).
At this point, it's hard to pin down keys to a game for Michigan State. Containing Battle will obviously be a major priority (to avoid a repeat of these two teams' meeting in East Lansing last year). Beyond that, it's really a matter of playing a fairly complete game on both ends. On offense, that will mean limiting turnovers, knocking down 3-pointers, and imposing their will on the offensive glass.
KenPom predicts a 70-64 MSU win in a 64-possession game. Kalin Lucas appears to be quickly getting back to full speed. A bounceback game from Durrell Summers, following his 20-minute stint on the bench in the second half on Tuesday, would be ideal.