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Previewing MSU at Penn State


Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Bryce-Jordan Center, State College, Pa.
Online streaming: BTN2GO
Radio: Spartan Sports Network

***UPDATE: Police have confirmed to various news outlets there was an altercation between two MSU basketball players. Some punches were thrown, there were just minor cuts, someone was shoved into a wall. But by the time the cops arrived, the team was already on the bus ready to go to the arena. We won't speculate who was involved, and I'm sure we'll find out more before the game or right after the game.

*****UPDATE 2: It was Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, according to a statement. Apparently some friendly banter turned into a scuffle and a wall was dented. Neither will start and they will pay the property damages. They were road trip roommates. All in all, it seems it was much ado about not much. The punishment is appropriate (as I assume they'll have some extra work to do when they get back to MSU) and we move on. Izzo wanted to start the two big men tonight.

So we've reached the end of the easiest stretch of the conference season. Enjoy it while it's here.

MSU sits at 3-1 in Big Ten play heading into Wednesday's matchup at Penn State. MSU labored, but pulled away for a win over Purdue, somehow pulled out an ugly win at Iowa and then hung on for a narrow home win against Nebraska. The good news is that this should be the easiest of the four. But I thought the Nebraska game would be easy, too.

The Nittany Lions come in at 8-8 and 0-4 in the conference with do-everything man Tim Frazier out for the season with a ruptured Achilles. They're the lowest-ranked Big Ten team in KenPom (No. 208). They were blown out by Northwestern at home.

At least Nebraska was good at defense. Penn State isn't very good at anything, except for giving up offensive rebounds.

The Nittany Lions have an adjO of just 94.8, which is No. 245 in the country. Their eFG% is 43.7, which is No. 308. they shoot 44 percent on 2s and 28.6 percent on 3s. Yuck.

In terms of players to watch, D.J. Newbill is the top guy (14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.5 turnovers, 29.5 poss%). The other is Jermaine Marshall (14.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 25.5 poss%). Like MSU, this is a seven-man rotation, and I'm sure one of them will have a career-high game.

Defensively, the adjD is 98.8 (No. 154). One thing the Nittany Lion defense does is foul. PSU is No. 337 in opponent FTA/FGA rate. Given how MSU has been shooting at the FT line, the Spartans will need to improve, and they may have many chances in this one. Opponent also shoot 36.4 percent from three — another spot MSU has struggled. The good news is PSU doesn't force many turnovers, and MSU has been holding onto the ball better.

Opponents only grab 25.1 percent of their misses, which is the fifth-lowest rate in the country. On the other end, PSU grabs 33.8 percent, which is decent.

The Nittany Lions should have trouble scoring, but how well MSU's offense will perform is very unpredictable. Branden Dawson reportedly is feeling fine after the knee scare, so that's good. Gary Harris will continue to wear the brace. The guards should shoot better than they did against Nebraska, and I imagine the bigs won't shoot as well, as both return to the mean.

KenPom predicts a 68-55 MSU win, giving the Spartans a 90 percent chance of winning. After this, it's five straight games against teams that could be ranked. Better take care of business in State College.

***UPDATE: Police have confirmed to various news outlets there was an altercation between two MSU basketball players