Penn State–Minnesota Preview
So here we are. Gameday. Today could be the last day of Penn State’s season, or it could be the beginning of a rampage through the Big Ten Tournament. While statistically it is more likely to be the first of the two, Penn State has played their best basketball of the year, at the very end of the year. I don’t think too many teams could say they played 2 Top 15 teams in a 3 days span and lost both games by a total of 6 points. Sure it is still a loss, but playing at Michigan State, and then Purdue after a day of rest shouldn’t be taken lightly. On the season, Penn State has given 5 Top 25 teams a run for their money. I don’t expect that to stop now.
Minnesota and Penn State have played each other tight this year. Both games were decided by a total of 7 points, a painfully small margin for those of us rooting for the Lions, but it’s something we’ve gotten used to. Penn State after all has lost 12 games by 8 points or less, 6 of which were lost by 3 points or less. It is only a matter of time before it all comes together. Is it too late? Probably. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun before the season ends.
It’s been a while since we’ve played with bullet points so lets look over the 5 keys to winning today.
- Balance— If Penn State is going to have a chance tonight, it is going to come from good defensive and offensive balance. That means no lazy rotation giving Minnesota a wide open shot; that was the Lion’s downfall against Purdue. If Penn State can keep teams from getting wide open looks it will go a long way towards playing another game. On the offensive side, it means not relying on Talor Battle doing all the work. A good dose of inside-outside attack as well as transition baskets will be essential.
- Chris Babb—Babb is 12 of his last 20 three-pointers and has scored 47 points. If he is able to keep his hot shooting going he’ll be a big part of the offense and should get the ball early and often. The faster you can find Babb’s shot the better.
- Jeff Brooks/Drew Jones— Both of these players they both need to contribute. Jones has averaged 7 points and 6 rebounds over the past four games, so if he is able to maintain that average, and even improve it he’ll be a nice complementary scorer for the Lions. Brooks on the other hand has averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds over the past four games. He is currently on a three streak of double-digit scoring so his ability to be consistent could make or break the Lion’s chances tonight.
- The Bench—Has been missing for a good portion of the season. That might be a little too kind. Tim Frazier has done an excellent job running the offense as of late but could look to score 5-8 points to really be an asset coming off the bench. If Bill Edwards can find his stroke again and contribute a few points without fouling it will be huge. On the whole Edwards, Frazier, and Ott should look to score around 15-20 points total. That is asking a lot based off of how the bench has played lately, but Penn State doesn’t have the luxury of relying on their starters.
- You’ve done this before—Penn State doesn’t have a lot of success in the Big Ten tournament, but they do have the experience of the NIT run to build on. Knowing what it takes to win in a must win game is a bigger factor than you might imagine. It might be a lot, but when you’re playing in the big games, you need all the help you can get.
Penn State is in an interesting place. The 11th seed, but nobody thinks they are the worst team in the league. Sure, their record indicates that they are, but nobody who has paid attention to Big Ten basketball thinks Minnesota should take the Lions lightly. If Penn State can find balance, play within themselves, and never give up, there is always a chance they could string together those elusive 4 wins.