Game 14: Penn State at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Penn State (8-4) at Michigan (10-3)
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: January 2nd, 2011, 4PM
Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM/Sirius Ch. 91

In my post about expectations early last week I questioned how this team would react to adversity. Well, we are about to find out. Michigan will look to bounce back against Penn State after a jarring and embarrassing 23 point home loss to Purdue. The importance of winning this game becomes painfully obvious when you look ahead on the schedule: at Wisconsin, Kansas, Ohio State, at Indiana, at Northwestern, Minnesota, and at Michigan State. Lose this game and the 0-2 start could slip into the sort of dramatic losing streak that has the potential to ruin a season.

Penn State didn’t accomplish much in the non-conference portion of their schedule, going 7-4 with losses to Mississippi, Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Maine. However, they opened Big Ten play with a road win at Indiana which is arguably their best win of the season. They have Talor Battle, who is still one of the best players in the league, averaging 21 points per game thanks to shooting 39% on three point attempts. The problem for Penn State is that the Nittany Lions just don’t have enough supporting options to complement Battle’s brilliance.


Penn State didn’t have much depth to start the season but now that Taran Buie has been suspended indefinitely, they are down to a 7 man rotation. In the backcourt Battle is joined by Tim Frazier and Cammeron Woodyard, both of whom are below average offensive players. Woodyard is 6 of 31 from the field on the season and 35% of the possessions that Frazier uses result in turnovers.

Battle’s offensive support comes on the wings where 6-foot-8 Jeff Brooks and 6-foot-7 David Jackson provide an intriguing combination of size and skill. Brooks scored a career high 23 points at Indiana and averages 13 points and 8 rebounds per game. While he does most of his work slashing ot the basket (56% on twos) he also shoots 41% on threes. 6-foot-10 245 pound Andrew Jones anchors the middle, averaging 6 points and and 6 rebounds per game. 6-foot-8 freshman Billy Oliver backs him up down low and rounds out the Penn State rotation. Oliver appears to hae the green light from three point range, he has already attempted 25 threes this season but made just 7 (28%).

The trio of Battle, Brooks, and Jackson spearheads Penn State’s offense, which is more efficient than the defense. The Nittany Lions don’t turn it over often and rebound a respectable 35% of their misses, but they haven’t shot the ball particularly well this year with an effective field goal percentage of 48.1% — 47.4% on twos and 32.9% on threes.

Pomeroy rates Penn State’s defense the worst in the Big Ten and 103rd best in the country. They don’t force many turnovers but are an above average defensive rebounding team and manage to keep opponents off the line. Penn State is terrible at defending the three point line, where opponents are shooting 39.4% despite attempting over 37% of their shots from long range. Two point defense is the strength of the Nittany Lion defense as opponents are shooting just 44% inside the arc.

Conventional wisdom would be something like “stop Battle and you stop Penn State”, but the real key is stopping Jeff Brooks. In Penn State’s four losses, Brooks is averaging just 6 points per game and shooting 32% — in three of those four games he shot under 26% from the field. Battle is going to get his points but if you eliminate Brooks from the equation, there just aren’t too many other offensive options on the Penn State roster. David Jackson is the one other guy that can hurt you, routinely scoring in double figures, but the other 4 players in the PSU rotation have one double figure game between them — Billy Oliver’s 10 points versus Lehigh.

Pomeroy gives Michigan a 71% chance at victory, predicting a 63-58 win. Michigan is plummeting in the Pomeroy rankings but they are still slightly ahead of Penn State overall which, coupled with home court advantage gives Michigan the advantage on paper. Here are three predictions:

  • Penn State wins if Jeff Brooks scores over 17 points, if he doesn’t Michigan takes the victory.
  • Talor Battle wins the point guard match-up as Darius Morris shoots under 50% from two point range for the third straight game.
  • Stu Douglass leads Michigan in scoring thanks to another solid three point shooting performance.
  • Dylan Burkhardt

    2013 wing guard Zak Irvin is expected to make the trip up from Indiana to visit on Sunday.

  • AG2

    I feel good about this game because one of the reasons our team has been good defensively so far is playing a lot of bad offensive teams like BGSU and USC-Upstate. Penn State has got to be the worst shooting team in the Big Ten from what I’ve seen.

    I also feel worried about this game because if we don’t win, in the blink of an eye we go from 10-2 to as much as 10-9. Plus PSU beat us last year at home. We really really need this.

  • Go Blue. Eviscerate PSU.

  • JimC

    My prediction for 2011: we beat PSU at Crisler, beyond that very fuzzy.

  • Alex

    I hope the team continues to improve and learn from every game. They have to try and keep perspective.

  • grandchamp

    Hopefully when we play at msu the refs don’t screw us like they’ve been screwing Minn all day.

  • Tom_McC

    To use a common term UM sports fans are probably sick of hearing right now, it’s all about the process for this team right now.

    As much as we want to put expectations on these kids, its just impossible to know what to expect from game to game because this team is not only inexperienced, it will be going against teams with significantly more experience which makes it hard to know how this team will respond when they achieve success or hit adversity.

    Getting bombed by 20 at home is never fun but from my experience that is when young teams learn the most. After UM got drilled pretty good by UTEP, they responded very well and the hope is these guys do the same vs PSU.

  • I hate to say a must win this early in the season, but we need this win bad. I hope Morgan has a good game and is very aggressive.

  • Kevin in GR

    Nice surprise to see that we have a chance with Donavan Kirk! He was a 4 star recruit, redshirted and would be a good fit to next years class!

  • Sullycu

    If a scholarship is offered, he’d prob be UofM bound…if he wants to go back to Michigan, MSU is burned on scolarships so…we would seem like the most likely of options

  • Kainkitizen

    Yes, I truly believe that the guys will pull this game out and win by at least 10 with some hot 3pt shooting. It should be exciting to watch after watching the football game Saturday afternoon. Donnavan Kirk has really grown up with what his Hurricane profile reads. He’s gained weight and just needs more coaching and playing time. I think it would be a great addition to our low-post competition during practice. It can only make the team more competitive and better on the court to win.

    • Sullycu

      I completely agree in regards to Kirk.

      I was getting my hopes up about that German guy (Heckmann) too though.

      With the three scholarships left I really think we need to prioritize

      – 1 Tall, Athletic Wing

      – 1 Big that plays mostly on the inside

      – Best available option (wing ?)

      I say Michigan beats Penn St. by…7. This game is crucial

    • georgeesq.

      If he wasn’t in the same class eligibility-wise as our other big men, he might be worth a scholarship. But I just don’t see us offering Kirk now. He didn’t show much at DCD or Miami. He may pass the look test, but he’s not shown it on the court.

      • Kevin in GR

        Maybe I’m wrong here, but he redshirted last year so wouldn’t he have 3.5 years left

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          He redshirted last year so is using his freshman eligibility this year.

          He’d be eligible to play in the second half of next season, which would be his sophomore year. So 2.5 years.

      • Sullycu


        Its good when someone rated #88 by ESPN may not be good enough, but your right, his numbers at Miami make me think he could be another Laval Lucas-Perry: A Michigan kid recruiting highly out of high school, goes out of state, comes back and is invisible on the court.

        But maybe not, he seems like a Jordan Morgan…big body. And maybe he would do better on another team, hence the transfer.

        • kevin

          he may be granted to play right away like elliot williams was aloud to do, because it’s for personal reasons.

  • Champswest

    What info do you have on Kirk? What is Beilein’s interest level in him?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Michigan, Oakland, Northwestern, and DePaul are the main schools on his list. Not sure about how much interest U-M is showing him but whatever happens will happen fast, so that he can be enrolled for the semester.

  • Colby

    Hey Dylan, are you surprised we are not hearing more about recruits at the 4 position for 11 and 12? Seems like Evan needs a backup and everyone makes a big deal about a Beilein “4” being very important.

    Or do they expect Colton to fill that role, I was expecting more out of him this year after all the glowing reports from the summer. Also are you surprised with the interest in Kirk? Thanks, Happy New Year

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      I think that Glenn Robinson will probably end up being a four man in this offense — especially if he grows a few more inches.

      I’m not sure what to think about Kirk. He passes the look test but he has never really produced throughout his career at DCD and then Miami. Does he have the skill to play the four? I don’t think so. He would be Michigan’s third 5-man in the current freshman class.

    • CJD

      Colton looks like he has a veryyyyyyyy long way to go to be considered a contributor.

  • Colby

    Thanks Dylan, the class balance has to play a role in the decision about Kirk. I would like to get him but we do not have many ships, we need impact players and like you say we have our two future 5s don’t we?

    Also Dylan, is the staff still recruiting Jeremy Hollowell or been down to watch him play? I have read he wants to leave Indiana, he is versatile and I thought he was supposed to visit this summer. Lavall recruited him at Iowa as well.

  • RG

    I think we have a chance to keep this game close and maybe pull out a win. We’ll see.

    • grandchamp

      We will be favored in this game so we at least better be able to keep it close. lol
      You make it sound like we are playing Wisconsin or something.

  • MarcO

    Good-bye rr!

    • AG2

      Indeed, now he can add the distinction of worst bowl loss in Michigan history to list of accomplishments. At least Robinson didn’t get hurt so Devin Gardner didn’t burn his redshirt.

      Either he’s gone by next week or he’s coming back another year.

      • mgocanada

        hot diggity did they get beat or what? Can’t wait till our Head Offensive Coordinator is history just like 2010! Everyone thinks our running QBs will bolt too, but who knows, maybe they would actually like to have a defence to take some of the pressure off once in a while!

        Meanwhile, please beat PSU guys! PS Dylan, thanks for the great recruiting vids of late; terrific, encouraging stuff. Happy New Year all.

        • Gary

          One of the things I like about this site is that it doesn’t have the endless football coaching discussions that all the other UM sports blogs have. Let’s keep it that way.

          • mgocanada

            Oh come on — I wouldn’t call a light-hearted, three-comment sequence following a very consequential, very depressing bowl game “an endless football coaching discussion.” Plus, Kelvin Grady did have one carry for minus 8 yards today, so that’s kinda basketball related, eh? Anyway, let it end here.

            Losing to PSU at home was probably the nadir of last season (even if the Wisconsin game at Crisler was probably the most personally depressing for me, and even if my reaction to the Purdue game in W Lafayette got me temporarily banned from several B10 blogs), so here’s to a little improvement in 2011. UM by 6.

  • MikeSal

    Like most, I found the Purdue game extremely frustrating. However, there were rays of hope. Purdue shot the lights out and we turned the ball over a lot. All of the mistakes I saw were fixable which is good. My biggest concern moving forward is who is going to make shots and score for us. Stu played great for a stretch but I don’t think we have that guy we can turn to yet. Pressure defense like the one the boilers played worked against us and should be on every scouting report on us for the rest of the season. I hope JB installed some sort of scheme to combat this. At times we looked soft out there and that makes me cringe. This game is almost a must win (I hate to say that in early Jan) and would help spring board us for the upcoming stretch. I look forward to seeing how this team handles adversity.

    Look for Novak to break out against PSU. UM by 9.

  • AG2

    Indeed, Etwaun Moore and Jujuan Johnson have been on fire so far. But we really need this win. If we lose, I could see us finishing last in the Big 10.

  • grandchamp

    Michigan favored by 7.5 points

    over/under is 123.5