When? Saturday, Feb. 6, 8:00 PM, BTN
Pomeroy? Indiana by 8, 78% chance of Indiana victory
WHAT'S WRONG WITH BEING CONFIDENT? (AH-AH-HA)
Indiana is 9-1 and tied for first in the Big Ten, after answering a ton of questions about their team on Tuesday night against Michigan. They broke out of the shooting slump that occurred during the Minnesota game by scoring 45 points in the first half. The defense was on point, as the Wolverines did not score over the course of 10 minutes when IU went on a 28-0 run to effectively put the game away. The Hoosiers were also going up against their toughest opponent of conference play thus far, after a relatively easy first half of conference play. Additionally, this game was on the road, in a tough, star-studded environment, the night before a jam-packed National Signing Day Ceremony. All told, it was a reaffirming victory for Hoosier fans, and the best road victory for the team since... well... the last time the Hoosiers won at Crisler Center, when of course they clinched an outright B1G title in 2013.
Thus after that Michigan victory, I'm starting to feel some real confidence in this squad, as they prepare for another road game tomorrow night. The Hoosiers' opponent for Saturday may be in the midst of a rough season, but they're also one that Indiana has struggled with in the past.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#20 Adj. Offense)||60.1% (2nd)||20.5% (299th)||38.4% (11th)||33.5% (258th)|
|PENN STATE (#110 Adj. Defense)||49.0% (132nd)||17.4% (236th)||29.5% (149th)||41.4% (266th)|
|INDIANA (#59 Adj. Defense)||48.2% (104th)||19.8% (81st)||28.4% (108th)||30.6% (50th)|
|PENN STATE (#186 Adj. Offense)||45.8% (311th)||16.8% (74th)||29.2% (199th)||36.7% (175th)|
I've always thought that Indiana and Penn State were bizarro opposites of one another, when it came to athletics. Indiana is of course the big basketball state, and the football team has subsequently had to be in its shadow for years and years. Pennsylvania is a state known for its tough-as-nails football players, and that reputation has carried over to the flagship state university, where basketball can sometimes be an afterthought. Both IU football and PSU hoops have had well-documented attendance issues - the gigantic Bryce Jordan Center never seems to be at full capacity unless it's hosting the well-known THON fundraiser for fighting childhood cancer. And like Kevin Wilson, PSU basketball coach Pat Chambers is an energetic guy who has been given time and resources to turn things around in a tough environment (Penn State's previous coach, Ed DeChellis, fled State College for Navy after leading the Nittany Lions to their most recent tourney appearance in 2011).
At an even deeper level, Penn State has been to only 9 NCAA Tournaments, while Indiana has been to only 10 bowl games. In addition, the two longtime leaders of IU basketball and Penn State football were both fired as a result of scandal. State College, which I got to visit for the first time last October, is also a vibrant college town, similar to Bloomington.
Which leads us to this season's Penn State basketball team. The Nittany Lions haven't been the same type of #CHAOSTEAM like IU football is, but the team does have some threats that could give Indiana cause for concern. The Nittany Lions like to get senior Brandon Taylor to shoot the ball, as he takes over 30% of Penn State's shots when he's in the game. This is the 72nd-highest percentage in the nation, and the shooting has paid off, as Taylor has scored in double digits in every B1G game so far. Like Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill in the years before him, sophomore point guard Shep Garner is the focal point of the Penn State offense. Not only does Garner run the show, but he's also constantly in the game, playing for 86.6% of PSU's minutes this season. For comparison, Yogi Ferrell's usage rate is 84.8%.
Also, former Nittany Lion baller Joonas Suotamo was the stand-in for Chewbacca in The Force Awakens, so that's pretty neat.
Last season, IU and Penn State met only once, in Assembly Hall in an early January tilt. This was the first game in which Hanner Mosquera-Perea was injured, and the Hoosiers struggled to adjust without him. With the game tied in the second half, Crean called on Ryan Burton, who grabbed three huge offensive rebounds in his five minutes on the floor to help get the Hoosiers back on top. From there, the Hoosiers would never relinquish their lead, winning 76-73 after a Penn State desperation three-pointer came after the buzzer.
On the other hand, two years ago in Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers suffered an epic collapse in the waning minutes against the Nittany Lions, relinquishing an 11-point lead in the final three minutes in what was a microcosm of that mostly awful 2013-14 season. By the end of the game, the Hoosiers couldn't even make an inbounds pass! Ugh I'm shaking just thinking about it... let's finish the recent history with something more pleasant - a barnburner in State College back in 2012 when Jordy Hulls and Matt Roth went 12-of-15 from three to give IU an 88-82 win over PSU.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH FOR
- Shep Garner vs. Yogi Ferrell - The senior Hoosier shut down Michigan's point guard, Derrick Walton Jr., on Tuesday. Can he do it again with Garner? Both are likely to see extended action during this one, especially is the game is close.
- Troy Williams vs. Himself - During IU games this season, Twitter has often played the game of "Good Troy, Bad Troy," in which Williams is praised for a nice cut or putback or dunk, but then admonished a minute later for an unthinkable turnover or defensive breakdown. Which version of Troy will we see more of tomorrow? When he has the ball it can feel like riding a wheelbarrow down a steep hill. It could go out of control or it could be a fun adrenaline rush, but one thing's for sure, it's never boring.
- Indiana's 3-point shooting vs. Penn State's 3-point defense - the Hoosiers rank 4th in 3-point field goal percentage, whereas Penn State ranks 270th in defending the longball. If there's a matchup that the Hoosiers can exploit, it's this one, and if IU can get hot from downtown early, they might be able to put away Penn State from the start and not have to deal with yet another game against the Nittany Lions that goes down to the wire.