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Game Preview: Penn State

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Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFO:

Who? Penn State Nittany Lions (12-4, #116 KenPom)  v. Indiana Hoosiers (12-4, #54 KenPom)

When? 7:00 PM, BTN

Vegas? INDIANA -7.5

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 9, 80% chance of Indiana victory

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Oh man Penn State is coming back to Assembly Hall it's a real good thing there aren't any repressed memories that won't start coming back to-

pennstatefuck

OH MY GOD WHY

It's hard to talk about a game against Penn State without mentioning last year's debacle, in which the Hoosiers held an 11-point lead with a little over two minutes to play before ultimately losing to the Nittany Lions. The game encompassed everything that was so deeply flawed about the roster, as they struggled to do so little as inbound the ball correctly time and time again and coughed up one of the easiest games on their conference schedule at home.

Penn State created a little fanfare with a 12-1 start to the season, but every win came to a team ranked 133rd or worse except for a 13-point win over #59 George Washington and the lone loss came to 118th-ranked Charlotte. Conference play has been pretty horrible for the Nittany Lions, with three straight losses, including 174th-ranked Rutgers and 73rd-ranked Michigan at home.

The Nittany Lions pretty much revolve around senior stud DJ Newbill but there are four other players getting meaningful minutes with offensive ratings over 100. They're not very good perimeter shooters overall but Newbill, Shep Garner, and John Johnson are all connecting at a 37% clip. That trio also dishes out their fair share of assists, with rates of 19.8%, 18.2%, and 14.2% respectively. The freshman, Garner, has been starting at the point while John Johnson comes off the bench as the third guard, as Pat Chambers prefers to stick with a traditional two guard set.

That lineup could make 6-6 Brandon Taylor or 6-7 Ross Travis the X-Factor on Tuesday night, as one of them will likely find himself defended by a smaller guard more often than not. Neither play has acquitted himself to the offensive side of the ball with any distinction through 16 games, with offensive ratings of 85.0 and 84.6 respectively. Neither one is a shabby rebounder, however, and Indiana must continue to put work in on the glass to prevent them from getting extra possessions that turn into easy looks.

HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 54.9% (23rd) 17.2% (46th) 35.9% (43rd) 37.8% (159th)
PENN STATE (Defense) 44.8% (62nd) 18.0% (267th) 30.9% (156th) 40.7% (241st)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 46.9% (106th) 16.0% (328th) 33.6% (268th) 27.2% (20th)
PENN STATE (Offense) 49.0% (154th) 18.7% (121st) 31.5% (167th) 39.8% (120th)

First thing that jumps out is: holy hell both these teams are TERRIBLE at turning their opponents over. Indiana is now an alarming 328th in that statistic, so bad that all their improvement from last year on tightening up their own turnovers is almost unnoticeable. For a team that values the "deflection" with an almost religious ferocity, it's strange to not see more steals out of this squad. It continues to be a huge drain on their overall defensive efficiency, as the squad has become reasonably average at defending shots (and excelling at the perimeter) while also closing in on the elite when it comes to preventing teams from getting to the free throw line.

Penn State is also pretty good at defending shots but also struggles mightily to turn teams over and has a bad habit of sending opponents to the free throw line. This is something Indiana should keep in mind when attacking the Nittany Lions, as they seemed to get in a groove against Ohio State when they attacked the lane as opposed to shooting long jumpers. They are very good at shooting long jumpers, but playing inside-out is always a good way to get better looks. That's why guys like Troy Williams are what really make the whole thing go, his ability to knife inside and finish with authority is what will collapse defenses, when he can stay under control and decisively swing it back out for an open shot, the offense becomes close to unstoppable. Yogi Ferrell is also excellent at getting inside the defense but his smaller frame makes him less likely to finish through traffic, but he makes up for it with crisp passing (25.3% assist rate) and lights out free throw shooting (88.0%).

Three Things to Watch For:

  • Wherefore art thou, long ball? Through three B1G games, Indiana is the 2nd worst team in the conference at shooting from distance, something they excelled at throughout the non-conference season. Against Michigan State and Ohio State combined, the team went 9-42 from deep but still managed to win one of those games. This team didn't just suddenly become bad at shooting, but the shot selection quality has dwindled and prolonged slumps from Nick Zeisloft and James Blackmon Jr. have certainly not helped either. None of the three teams they've faced thus far were slouches on defense and while Penn State is far from bad, they're the worst defense the Hoosiers have seen in some time, and it will be interesting to see if the shotmaking makes a reappearance.
  • It is time for Emmitt Holt. Tom Crean hinted that Hanner Mosquera-Perea would have to earn his starting spot in practice after the Michigan State game and he apparently did so, as he started against the Buckeyes on Saturday. Perea ended up fouling out in eight minutes of court time, surrendering his final foul on a Sam Thompson putback layup that gave Ohio State an opportunity to tie the game with 32 seconds left. Perea still has a role on this team, but he has been getting outplayed by Emmitt Holt for some time now, and it's time to give the freshman a chance to seize the starting minutes for a team in desperate need of anything down low to work. Holt likely won't be a definitive answer to Indiana's frontcourt woes, but he has more than earned the right to try to be.
  • Collin Hartman's expanding role. Hartman was fourth in minutes played against Ohio State and while he made his only shot attempt (and missed the ensuing free throw) he had his fingerprints all over the game with a strong rebounding effort and some impressive blocks. His metamorphosis from his first year (that saw him take 11 shot attempts and tear his ACL at the end of the season) to bona fide first-option-off-the-bench glue guy has been incredible to witness. I don't know if his numbers show up in a larger sample size, as he currently is using only 12.3% of Indiana's possessions while he's on the floor, but he came up huge against the Buckeyes and, much like Holt, has earned a larger role in my opinion.