Game 26: Penn State at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt


Who: Michigan (13-12, 6-7) vs. Penn State (9-16, 1-12)
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Saturday, February 20th, 6 PM EST
: MGoBlue, WWJ 950 AM/WTKA 1050 AM
Stats: Live TFS
Opposition Blog: Battle Does it Again
Pomeroy Profile


Michigan is looking for their first three game winning streak since beginning the season 3-0. They welcome last place Penn State into the friendly confines of Crisler Arena. Penn State is fresh off their first Big Ten win, an 81-70 upset at Northwestern.

As crazy as it seems, Penn State might be the best 1-12 Big Ten team in quite some time. Penn State ranks 103rd in Pomeroy’s ratings, ahead of fellow cellar dwellers Iowa and Indiana. Last year was a magical season for the Nittany Lions, they pulled upset after upset before coming up one game short of the NCAA tournament. This year’s Penn State team has fallen on the other side of the luck spectrum, Talor Battle’s magic hasn’t been quite as effective and they haven’t been able to win many close games. Sound familiar? Just a little bit.

Talor Battle is the catalyst for Penn State. He is one of the elite players in the conference and he can do it all: score, pass, and rebound. His supporting cast has struggled this year, but in their Wednesday night win at Northwestern they finally stepped up. Battle scored only 12.5% of Penn State’s points compared to his season total of 29.4%.

David Jackson, Chris Babb, and Jeff Brooks all range from 6’5″-6’8″ and average 7 to 10 points and 4 rebounds per game. They combined for 52 points in Penn State’s lone conference win but that was the first time they all scored in double figures during Big Ten play.

In the post, Penn State has a pair of Andrews. Andrew Jones III appears to ooze with potential but he’s averaging only 6 points and 5 rebounds per contest. 6’10” Andrew Ott comes off the bench, averaging 4 points and 2 boards. The Nittany Lions main contributor off the bench is freshman backup point guard Tim Frazier.

Offensively, Penn State holds onto the ball and shoots it decently from the field. However for the most part their offense revolves around watching Talor Battle work. Penn State does have a few competent three point shooters and they shoot 33.6% from behind the arc as a team. Talor Battle’s prowess from beyond the arc is well known (35.5%) but David Jackson (38.3%) and Chris Babb (34.7%) can also hit the three.

Defensively, Penn State struggles to force turnovers and defend the three. Their opponents turn the ball over on less than 15% of their possessions in conference play. Michigan actually has the highest turnover percent versus Penn State of any Big Ten team, however most of that is because they turned the ball over 9 times in the first half (which was easily one of their worst halves of the year). In conference play, Penn State’s opponents are shooting 38% from three point range and a conference worst 54.2% effective field goal percentage. The one thing Penn State does extremely well on the defensive side of the ball is rebound, their defensive rebounding percentage of 74.8% is second in the nation.

Three point shooting is worlds more important than offensive rebounding for Michigan. I’d much rather play a great defensive rebounding team that lets opponents hit three point shots than vice versa. If Michigan holds onto the ball and hits threes, they will be in a good position to beat most teams regardless of offensive rebounding. Michigan is obviously used to winning without pulling down many offensive rebounds or shooting free throws.

Judging by Penn State’s performance versus Northwestern. Michigan should stay away from the 1-3-1 zone and stick to strictly man-to-man defense. Penn State picked Northwestern’ s 1-3-1 zone apart and the Wildcats run a much more effective 1-3-1 than Michigan.  Luckily Michigan has been playing man-to-man 95% of the time and it appears to be gradually improving.

Penn State’s lackluster shooting defense bodes well for Michigan, so maybe the hot three point shooting continues?. DeShawn Sims dominated the first match-up, scoring 25 points on 12 of 17 shooting. Big performances from Sims have been the norm this year in confernece play, he has scored 17+ points in 11 of 13 Big Ten games. Neither Andrew Jones or Andrew Ott are capable of defending DeShawn when he is on his game so Michigan would be well served to pound the ball inside early and often.

Pomeroy gives Michigan a 79% chance at victory with a score prediction of 65-58.  This is one of those “taking care of business” wins that Michigan needs to get if they are serious about finishing the season on a high note and shooting for a .500 conference record.  Let’s hear your thoughts and predictions in the comments.

P.S.: Michigan at Michigan State is slated for Sunday, March 7 at 4 p.m. on CBS.

P.P.S.: Calvin is planning on making the trip out to see Carlton Brundidge and Southfield take on Clarkston tonight. We should hopefully have a scouting report and video for you later this weekend.

  • maxwell’s demon

    gpsimms – Statistics aren’t a root cause. It’s obvious to everyone on here that the reason we are losing more games this year is our 3 pt%.

    Now why is that? Because of different personnel? No. Are you going to tell me that LLP and Stu repeatedly missing wide open looks and actually passing on some doesn’t reflect the mental aspect of the game? You’re going to tell me a team that loses every close game (aside from Iowa) doesn’t have leadership issues?

    Your statistics argument seems to prove exactly what you are trying to disprove. That we are a similar team but has terrible shooting stretches and loses a lot of the close games that we won last year. Good teams win close games and good teams usually have leadership.

    And I absolutely place some of the lack of leadership on Manny’s shoulders. He is the opposite of Kalin Lucas down the stretch. And as far as Sims go, I actually do think he’s a leader but he can only do so much as a 5 man. Down the stretch you need leadership/poise at the ball handling positions and we don’t have it.

  • gpsimms

    it sounds like the definitionof leadership here is good player. I still maintain that merritt had very little to dowith the success last year, and CJ had almost everything to do with it. When things got tough, Manny made a 3, a steal and a +1.

    He did this because he is a good player.

    Against Iowa peedi went nuts in the last 90 seconds or so, at a point when I was absolutely sure we could not come back.

    He also did this because he is good at basketball.

    I think most people play the same near the end of a close game as they did throughout the game. Manny and Deshawn keep making plays, the rest keep not making plays. It’s funny, but I think we miss CJ’s SKILL at guard. he made some good plays last year. That’s what we miss.

    so if by leadership, you mean skill, then we are exactly on the same page.

  • gpsimms

    meh, i guess i’m being a little hard on merritt. he did have the ability to hit the oen three (which would be a very welcome, again, skill to add to thisteam)..he just really frustrated me in other aspects of the game…i think that the limited +/- you did last year bears me out on that, too…(again, not that he didn’t try real hard)

  • DaveR

    That was ugly. Typical though. Killed in the paint again. As somebody else pointed out, Novak ain’t no power forward. And they can’t shoot the three. This team will be lucky to make the NIT. Don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Looking like Zeigler will end up elsewhere – Beilein can’t land a top 50 recruit to save his life so far. So another subpar recruiting year and we lose both our top players, Amaker holdovers Sims and Harris – they’ve been carrying this team and keeping it respectable. Next year is looking really ugly – McLimans is probably a stiff or he’d be playing. Morgan has a little more promise but he was an unrrated prospect and likely could have played this year after recovering from his injury – but didn’t. Horford is also unrrated for good reason and a project. Smotrycz is fairly highly rated but will be a freshman, is not a powerful post player and may have little help inside. Overall, Michigan’s talent is near the bottom of the Big Ten with Beilein’s recruits – without Harris and Sims. Unless the redshirts and new recruits are much better than expected and Beilein finishes strong recruiting, this team won’t win ten games next year and will finish at the bottom of the Big Ten. Longer term, it looks like more of the same – unless Beilein can somehow become a better recruiter – I highly doubt Beilein lands Williams or another similar caliber player given his record so far. We shouldn’t be struggling to land Zeigler. Michigan should be getting a top 50 recruit on average every year and a couple top 100 recruits every year – at the bare minimum. As Vitale said, Michigan should be easily pulling in these top recruits and should be a top 20 program. Now. In the longer term, Michigan should do even better and should be at MSU or OSU’s level. Michigan shouldn’t have extended Beilein’s contract untill he had proven able to do so.

  • maxwell’s demon

    No. Being clutch isn’t some made up phenomenon. It exists in every sport. When the game is on the line a lot of talented players don’t make the same decisions that they do during the rest of the game. But some players do, and some even seem to consistently make big plays down the stretch. I don’t see how anyone can dispute that having an experienced point guard can help keep the team stay focused and help run the offense properly down the stretch of the game. Whether leadership is an innate quality or more related to experience doesn’t matter just as long as there is someone to keep the team on track at the end of the game.

    Maybe part of the problem is that we do default to Manny at the end of the game and we immediately start running our offense differently than we did for the rest of the game.

  • Brian W

    I don’t think Vitale’s idea that UM should easily be pulling in a top 50 player every year is a reality at the moment (a goal but not a reality right now). Vitale seems to forget that there have been years between UM’s NCAA runs and what current high school players have seen from UM during their lifetime. UM’s Fab Five and NCAA tourney teams weren’t seen by the current high school players. It’ll hopefully get easier to pull in the talent when the practice facility is in place and Crisler gets freshened up a little.

  • gpsimms

    brian is right about recruiting expectations. dick vitale is right that michigan’s ceiling is a real top tier program, but he’s wrong that they should be able to do it every year, starting this year…why would a kid with options choose michigan over other top flight basketball teams?

    also, interestng point made that beilein’s incoming class raks higher than wv’s right now…

    finally: i was really surpised to see osu get beat by purdue this week. i thouht for sure with turner back and playing well they were the best team in the big ten. they do look pretty good today, though, and i’m thinking we have almost no shot at beating them.

  • DaveR

    It’s not unrealistic to expect Beilein to pull in better recruits, ideally at least a top 50 player every year. This will be his THIRD recruiting class. He should have been pulling in better talent the last couple years. Now, it will take several decent recruiting years and several Zeigler caliber players to get Michigan’s talent to be even in the same ballpark as MSU’s – still not nearly as good but in the freakin’ ballpark. I’m not suggesting that Michigan can currently recruit at the level of MSU or OSU or any of the other top 15 or so programs. I’m suggesting that they recruit at least as well as a second tier program so that they can at least make the NCAA’s every year. Anything less is just not good enough for Michigan. So far, Beilein has been recruiting well below this second tier. EVEN WITH ZEIGLER, Michigan’s recruiting over the past 3 years would put them in them in the bottom half of the Big Ten and the bottom third of the ACC. Not nearly good enough. Before the fallout from the Fab Five years, heavy handed NCAA sanctions, and absolutely terrible coaching hires (seriously Ellerbe shouldn’t even be coaching junior high school ball), Michigan was an elite top 20 program and that’s where it belongs.

  • With Morris (dropped a bit during injured sr. year), Smotrycz (52 on rivals), and then Brundidge (64 on scout). You could argue that Beilein has came pretty damn close to pulling “a top 50 player every year”. They might be “fringe”-ish but I think after the top 35 or so, 35-60 is pretty much an equal range.

    If he lands Zeigler that’s another bonafide top 30-type kid that is the sort of difference maker you need (Sims, Harris).

  • ToBlav

    Lots of good ideas about what has caused this disappointing season, recruiting, etc.. It isn’t productive or wise to blame anyone. Our upperclass starters have too much of the load and the freshmen and sophmores have too little experience to be consistant. The bottom line is we are the youngest team in the Big Ten and the Fab Five is a once in a gereration deal, so we are in the middle of the league which is going to happen to a pretty good youngest team in the league, and in fact that is better than the youngest team in the usually does, I’d guess.

  • AG2

    Frankly, its totally unreasonable to ask ANY coach or ANY program to make the tournament every year. Would Wisconsin or MSU have made the tournament every year if Bob Knight had left Indiana? I think not. It takes time to build a dynasty, especially when you’ve had to start over as many times as we have.

    Beilein’s recruiting isn’t that bad. We’ve had some issues with size that’s affecting our defense, and most of our shooters are in sophomore slumps, and we’re breaking in a freshman point guard after losing two 5th year seniors and a sophomore. Whatever DaveR wants to say about Beilein’s recruiting vs. Amaker, there’s no question at all that Beilein is a better coach. None. And on top of that, Beilein’s recruiting is actually IMPROVING while Amaker’s was falling off because fewer and fewer people were taking him seriously. Sometimes you just have a down year, ask Roy Williams. 3-9 conference record with 7 McDonalds All Americans.

  • DaveR

    I agree that Beilein has been able to pull in some talent but it’s been sparse. Counting Brundidge who won’t see campus for another year and a half (if he stays committed) is overly optimistic at this point. It’s a good start for the next recruiting year but only a start. Unfortunately the recruiting rankings, especially at the top, are reasonably accurate. The top 20 players are usually significantly better than the next 20 and so on. So there is a major difference between landing say a top for 40 or 50 kid or somebody ranked lower. You can see it now with Michigan. Who are Michigan’s stars, the two players carrying this team? Harris (rivals #34 in his class) and Sims (rivals #31 in his class). Both are Amaker recruits. Beilein has not signed anybody at that level so far. If he gets him, Zeigler would be the first recruit at that level – and the odds are looking a little long at this point. Morris, Smotrycz and Brundidge are good top 100 recruits and maybe one will be better than advertised but none are top 40-50 recruits of the same caliber as a Sims or Harris. They are also spread over 4 classes – that’s a bit thin and not enough talent to keep you in the top half of the Big Ten or in the NCAA tournament. Matters are made worse by the lopsided nature of Beilein’s recruiting so far – he seems largely inacapable of recruiting decent post players. Beilein is a great coach and makes more with less but he’s not a miracle worker. I thought he might be. I thought his “small-ball” could work (it doesn’t work very well – PSU destroyed Michigan inside) and that he could coach up lesser talent to make Michigan a top team again. But I was wrong. He needs better talent – not necessarily the best but significantly better. If he gets it, I think Michigan will be at the top again.

  • maxwell’s demon

    How does international recruiting typically work? I know Dylan mentioned something about a tournament in April but is that too late for 2010 kids?

  • Not really any time frame. There isn’t any “too late” really as long as the kid can get enrolled. It’s more or less how it plays into the rest of Michigan’s recruiting. As a backup plan or whatever else.

  • Jay

    Some of the decisions by Coach B on personnel have been questionable to me. LLP yes was a year or two younger then Larry Wright (from St Johns) who wanted to transfer to UM, but had to settle for Oakland. What went into that decision? Did LLP take the spot first, so Wright was left without the possibility? I’ve been a very big Deshonte Riley guy. I’ve always thought his 6’11 low motor was better then any other prospect Beilein was looking for at the 4&5 spot. But who am I, im just a fan! He wasn’t good enough for Beilein, but he was good enough for Boheim? That is what puzzles me. Also everybody who says Huggins is doing this with Beilein kid as his best player, please remember last year was due to Ammakers kids not Coach B’s recruits. Doesnt matter who brought them there, what matters is what that coach can do with them. Joe Alexander wasn’t half the player he was that year Huggins made him cut down on the 3ball, and attack the rim. Plz stop referencing UNC, when you lose starting lineups to the NBA every year; then you have the right to hit a bump one out of 20 years. Just like UM football, opponents better get their licks in now because when this machine starts moving I would suggest you to get out of the way.

  • Would Larry Wright really make a difference over LLP? He’s averaging 10 and 2 at Oakland and shooting 36% from the field.

    I know Syracuse is loaded but Riley isn’t getting off the bench.

  • Giddings

    Odds of us getting Zeigler are “a little long at this point”? He’s been to Michigan at least 3 times in the last 4 months, including twice in the last month. People seem to base our chances with Trey solely on our win/loss record, but in reality there’s so many factors going on with his recruiting that it’s simply impossible to say at this point. What we DO know is that he’s interested enough to make the two-hour drive down to A2 for multiple visits and stay in touch with U-M commits like Evan and Carleton. Plus he has mentioned talking to Darius, a friend of his from his days in LA.

    As for Beilein “seeming incapable of recruiting decent post players”, let’s remember that: 1) the two true post players that he has recruited both suffered injuries so at this point we have no idea how good they could be (Morgan) or could have been (Cronin), and 2) his offense has never been based on banging down low in the post, so it’s simply not a priority of his on the recruiting trail.

    Beilein has been successful EVERYWHERE he’s been using the same formula. Some people argue that it won’t work in the Big Ten because of the physical nature of the conference, but is it really that unique? The Big East would beg to differ. And at the top of the Big Ten standings sits Purdue, which is largely a “finesse” team (Johnson is their only post player and he’s more of a lanky jump shooter than a power post presence).

    We’ve been no worse in-conference than out-of-conference this year. The problem is not that “we’re trying to play small ball in the Big Ten”. The problem is simply that the shots aren’t falling for this team.

    Beilein ball WILL BE SUCCESSFUL if the players can just hit a fair amount of open threes. Once he got the personnel he needed at WVU, they won 24, 22, and 27 games by shooting 36%, 35%, and 38% from 3-pt range. His Michigan teams have shot 31%, 33%, and now barely 30%. It’s clear that Stu, Zack, and LLP aren’t quite “enough” to get to that >35% range. But hopefully with Hardaway, Smotrycz, and a more experienced Vogrich in the fold, we will get there. And when we do, the wins will come.

  • Tweeter

    Jay I think the UNC point is more to the point that sometimes a team just lacks something than you cant just quantify. UNC has great players, regardless of who they lost, and a great coach, yet they have been terrible over the last two months.

    As for Riley, I dont think that guy who have helped this team at all this year as I said the other day. He has only seen playing time in two Big East games this year. I caught the couple minutes he got in their last game and lets just say that Gibson would own him right now. Thats not to say the guy wont develope into something, but he has a long, long ways to go. I also think Horford looks worlds better in his highlight videos than any video I ever saw of Riley.

  • Brogrich #1 Fan

    Put in Vogrich and let the kid play a little, his redshirt is already burned I just don’t understand why he isn’t getting any burn with how some of these other guys are playing. Mix it up a little Beilein, this season is over.

    On another note, it would be nice if our offense wasn’t so slow to develop all the time. You have kids standing in the same spot for 25 seconds of the shot clock on the wing. Look where we start our offense compared to others. We are usually way outside the 3. Our in bound plays suck. Throw it in the backcourt as a safety valve with our shot clock at 15 seconds kills us. It’s amazing how this team has lost fact of the little things. No one sets a good screen besides Novak. No one sets up their screen. No one gets open on the wing. This is why the backdoor cut never works anymore. It’s easy to see why we rely on jacking up so many threes when our offense is so stagnant.

  • Brian W

    On Beilein’s radio show last week, Jeff Meyer was on the show, and he mentioned that Vogrich needs to get stronger… He can flat out shoot it if you leave him open, but his defense needs improvement. Like the Lion’s backup quarterback and the Red Wings backup goalie, where people always want to put them in when things aren’t going as well as they could; it’s easy to just say put a player in. If a player’s not doing it in practice (which fans don’t see) or he’s not making the most of opportunities he gets in games, there’s probably a reason why the coach isn’t giving the player minutes. Beilein’s probably trying to play the players that give the team the best opportunity to win. Vogrich’s redshirt is burned, but I wouldn’t put him in just for the sake of putting him in.

    Deshawn was setting some nice screens yesterday. He set one that Stu used in the first half to drive to the hoop.

    If you have a deep team, you can run and gun and put in fresh legs. If you don’t have depth, it could be better to use some clock, run the offense and set up the play.

    Penn State was clogging the middle a lot yesterday, stepping back and daring LLP and Darius to shoot.

  • Not sure about more playing time for Vogrich. Whenever he is in the game he has been too slow. So far in his college career he lacks the foot speed to play defense or to get open.

    You can shoot 100% from the 3 point line if you are not guarded, but it’s a totally different ball game when someone is in your face. So far Vogrich may be a great at playing HORSE, but not as a player in the Big Ten.

  • Brogrich #1 Fan

    Even if Vogrich gets stronger, he’s going to need more playing time experience to build confidence when he plays. Its hard to build any confidence when he was out there spelling Manny Harris for two possessions before being taken out. I’m just saying there is nothing to lose playing him now so he gets out his mistakes now and can learn from them for next year. We are already getting no production off our bench anyway.

  • MR

    Not sure what the definition of succeess will be with Beilien as our coach. I suspect this year will be a typical year for this coaching staff. Beilien did have two very nice runs in the tournament (I suspect a quirky system being diffecult to prepare for in a short time frame as the reason, not as helpful in league play). In the big east Beilien finished 13th, 8th, 7th, 3rd, 7th. Big ten 10th, 7th, and a probable 7th or 8th. Hardly an annual title contender. I think we should be in the conversation for big ten titles, but I dont see this happening under Beilien.

  • fresh

    besides trey what other 3 prospects were at the game yesterday?

  • Isaiah Sykes was there. I’ll have the full post-game up soon. Sorry it’s taken so long.

  • aMaized

    Ziegler comment:
    Still undecided: One of the primary recruits the Michigan basketball team is still chasing for the 2010 class is Mt. Pleasant wing Trey Zeigler, son of Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler.

    Though Trey Zeigler would be a candidate to be Manny Harris’ successor at wing, many have speculated that Harris’ NBA draft status — Harris is currently a junior — could influence Zeigler’s decision this spring when it comes to Michigan and other schools who are recruiting him, including MSU, Duke and UCLA.

    Zeigler took questions in an online format Saturday and was asked: “Does the potential of Manny leaving do anything to your decision?” He responded: “nah id rather him stay.”

  • DaveR


    We may still land Zeigler but it’s getting late in the game and he still lists 12 schools without a clear leader. So yeah, I’d call that “a little long.” We should be able to lock up at least one player of Zeigler’s caliber early in the game.

    As for the lack of good post players, the results speak for themselves. Cronin was a bit of a project from the start and I suspect his health issues were somewhat known. Not a great recruit. Morgan may be good and he did suffer an unfortunate injury but he had recovered by the beginning of the season and still redshirted. Nevertheless, he’s not the top level recruit we should be getting in the post – not even close. McLimans didn’t have any injury but he didn’t even play even though we were super thin in the frontcourt this year – that speaks for itself. Even if he develops into a decent player (a bit of a gamble), again he’s not a good recruit. So Beilein recruited ZERO ranked post players in his first two classes and only one of his recruits appears to be a decent bet to be a significant contributor. Even though we had a great need for post players. As you say, his offense isn’t based on post play and this isn’t apparently a priority. We are seeing the limitations of this philosophy. Michigan routinely is destroyed inside – usually outscored in double digits in the paint and majorly outrebounded. PSU massacred them inside. It’s hard to win let alone be at the top with this handicap.

    Purdue is winning without the best talent in the Big Ten and without the best frontcourt – it’s not impossible. But they’re doing so with better talent, including better frontcourt talent, than Michigan. Purdue has 2 starters who are talented true post players – 6’10” Jajuan Johnson (Rivals #42) and 6’8″ Robbie Hummel (Rivals #75). They both average more than 30 minutes, 15 points and 7 boards. Johnson averages 2 blocks a game and Hummel averages 1 block a game. They also have 6’8 Bade coming off the bench. Michigan has only one true starting post player – Sims who has slightly better point and rebounding averages than Purdue’s big two but only averages 0.7 blocks per game. Michigan’s only other true post player, Gibson, comes off the bench and averages only 9 minutes, 3.6 points and 0.9 boards. So Purdue’s starting lineup is about twice as dominating in the post offensively and even more so defensively. They also have similar talent to Michigan in the backcourt. Purdue does demonstrate that it may take only a couple talented post players (and great coaching) to compete at the top level.

    As for the threes, part of it is shooting and part of it is the lack of a more effective post game (or even more talented slashers like Zeigler and Harris) which would allow more open looks from the outside.

    Beilein is a great coach and I’m not suggesting a coaching change – now. But if he doesn’t get better recruits or get better results with his current recruits in the next couple years, Michigan should consider a coaching change. I’m still hopeful but not the most optimistic.

  • Zeigler isn’t listing 12 schools and Michigan is very much involved.

    But I find it hilarious that the Free Press is quoting Zeigler’s formspring thing. You can read the whole thing here:

  • DaveR

    Per Rivals, he’s still considering 12 schools – all with Medium interest. I know this is not likely up to date but wishful thinking aside, Michigan is still among a pack of schools still vying for him without a clear leader – odds that are a little longer than I would prefer.

  • Rivals profile school lists are one of the most inaccurate things around. I wouldn’t recommend even using them as a resource. Trey’s list is probably something like 7 schools. Michigan, UCLA, CMU, MSU, and Duke would probably be the top 5-ish schools on his list.

    But as you said, he hasn’t announced any cuts to his list so we’ll see in a couple months.

  • DaveR

    Dylan – thanks for the update.