Who: Michigan (13-5) at Penn State (14-5)
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA
When: Tuesday, January 20th 9:00 ET
Spread: PSU by 2.5
Preview: Stat Sheet, U-M KenPom Profile, Penn State KenPom Profile
Radio: MGoBlue, WWJ-AM (950), WTKA-AM (1050)
Opposition Blog: Crispin and Cream
Michigan heads to the Bryce Jordan Center to take on the Nittany Lions in a battle of 3-3 Big Ten teams. I hate to call a game in January a “must win” but this is one that Michigan could really use. Of course there will be chances to make it up down the road but it won’t be easy. Michigan is on their first losing streak of the year and coming off probably their most disappointing game to date. No matter how badly Michigan needs a win, it’s not going to be easy because Penn State is no pushover.
Penn State has been tough at home all year. They have already knocked off Purdue, the conference’s preseason favorite, and also lost a close one to Michigan State. Bryce Jordan Center isn’t overwhelming in terms of home court advantage but a Big Ten road game is a Big Ten road game and nothing will come easy.
On offense the Nittany Lions do a great job holding on to the ball (their turnover rate of 16.6% ranks 7th nationally) while shooting a high percentage from three point range (38.7 3pt% ranks 24th nationally). While they shoot a high percentage from long range they don’t take an overwhelming percentage (35.8%, 98th nationally) of their shots from behind the arc. They also struggle at the free throw line where they are shooting only 66.5%. Overall their adjusted offensive efficiency of 110.3 ranks 6th in the Big Ten. They also like to play a very similar tempo to Michigan right around 65 possessions per game.
Defensively the Nittany Lions are a great rebounding team, they only allow their opponents to rebound 26.9% of their misses (9th nationally). Penn State doesn’t have lots of height but they get after it on the boards and it’s going to be critical for Michigan to come out ready to play hard and hustle. Penn State doesn’t force many turnovers but they defend the three point shot very well, their opponents shoot only 31.3% from long range. Overall, Penn State’s defense is the only defense in the Big Ten that ranks worse than Michigan’s in terms of adjusted efficiency.
The big three for Penn State are Talor Battle, Stanley Pringle and Jamelle Cornley. Battle’s 18.6 ppg is good for second in the Big Ten and he shoots 40.3% from long range while dishing out 5.4 assists per game. Pringle is shooting 50% from long range and averaging 14.4 ppg. Both guards can get hot in a hurry and from what I have seen can hit some pretty difficult shots inside and outside as well. In the paint the Nittany Lions rely on 6-foot-5 240 pound big man Jamelle Cornley to do their scoring and dirty work. Cornley is averaging 14.7 ppg while pulling down 6.6 rpg and shooting just over 50% from the field. Cornley definitely isn’t tall but he is a physical player who can impose his will on a game.
After the big three, Penn State doesn’t have much more in terms of scoring punch. 6-foot-9 Andrew Jones III starts inside and averages 5.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg. 6-foot-6 forward David Jackson was the fifth starter for the Nits and averages 4.6 ppg and 3.6 rpg but he was replaced by Jeff Brooks at the start of Big Ten play. The 6-foot-8 sophomore is averaging 3.5 points per game in his 6 starts. 6th man Danny Morrissey is a career 38% shooter from long range but he is shooting only 32% from behind the arc this year and really hasn’t got going.
Michigan’s last two games have left them with more questions than answers. The offense that was deadly at times early this season has been shut down and the always questionable defense has been giving up points in droves. Michigan isn’t ready to panic but fans are certainly getting nervous. Last week’s conversations about NCAA tournament seeding are now focused on the bubble. DeShawn Sims has made 7 of his last 27 shots and Laval Lucas-Perry hasn’t been much better, making 5 of his last 17. Michigan needs their second and third leading scorers to find their stroke because Manny Harris can’t beat teams on his own.
Let’s hear your thoughts, comments, predictions, and in-game discussion in the comments.