Game 24: Michigan at Penn State Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Michigan (13-10) at Penn State (12-9) images[1]
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, PA
When: 12:00 PM Sunday, February 6th, 2011
Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA AM 1050
Last Game: Michigan 76, Penn State 69
More: Opp. Q&A, Pick to Click, Notes & Quotes

Big Ten teams are 14-40 on the road this season. Undefeated Ohio State owns five of those 14 road wins and 11 of the 14 have come versus one of the league’s bottom four teams (Northwestern, Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa). Penn State, a team picked near the bottom of the conference, has made a name for itself in conference play by defending homecourt. The Bryce-Jordan Center doesn’t have the prestige of Assembly Hall or a raucous student section to match the Izzone but, somehow, Penn State just keeps on winning at home.

Road games for Michigan have been a mixed bag and it has been tough to project Michigan’s level of play. When expectations are lowest, Michigan seems to surprise with a strong performance (Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State, etc.). When it looks like Michigan might have a chance to win one on paper, the Wolverines have fallen flat on their faces (Indiana or Northwestern). Now, Michigan heads to Pennsylvania for a rematch with a team that it knocked off a month ago at Crisler Arena. This game qualifies as one that Michigan could have a chance to steal.


Since the loss to Michigan, Penn State has rebounded with wins over Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin at home. The Nits also lost at home to Purdue by 15, at Ohio State by 3, at Purdue by 1, and at Illinois by 17. They haven’t always been perfect but they have proven that they can beat anyone when they play well.

Offensively, Penn State is a jack of all trades but master of none. Penn State’s offense is the seventh best in the conference, averaging 1.07 points per possession. The Nittany Lions rank between fourth and seventh in all four major offensive statistical categories: eFG% (7th), OR% (7th), free throw rate (4th), and turnover percentage (7th). Penn State ranks 10th in three point shooting and has connected on just 31% of their long range attempts.

Penn State also has the conference’s seventh best defense, surrendering 1.08 points per trip. Penn State is just average in three of the four factors, eFG% (6th), free throw rate (5th), and turnovers forced (9th). However, Penn State is the best defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten, pulling down 72% of their opponents misses. Again, the Nittany Lions’ weakness is the three point line. Penn State has allowed Big Ten opponents to shoot 39% from three point range, fourth worst in the Big Ten.

All signs point toward 6-foot-8 do-it-all forward Jeff Brooks missing Sunday’s game with a dislocated shoulder. Brooks suffered the injury just before halftime at Illinois and Penn State was outscored by 11 points after his injury. Brooks has been Penn State’s leading rebounder (7 rpg) and second leading scorer (14ppg). Without Brooks, depth becomes a concern for a Penn State team that played its bench for fewer minutes than any other major conference team.

After four years, there isn’t a Big Ten fan left that doesn’t understand what Talor Battle is capable of. The clutch point guard can hit threes from the edge of the center court logo or slash to the hoop and finish with an array of circus shots. Penn State’s strategy this year has often been to stay in games until the final four minutes and then let the senior work his magic. More often than not, it has worked.


If Brooks is out, 6-foot-7 forward David Jackson will have to step up. Jackson averages 11 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 44% on twos and 36% on threes. In the first match-up, Michigan stifled 6-foot-10 center Andrew Jones, holding the senior to 0 points on 0 shots with two rebounds in 14 minutes. 6-foot-1 guard Tim Frazier is a competent setup man but turns the ball over far too often and is not a threat to shoot from the perimeter (1-13 on threes). 6-foot-8 freshman Billy Oliver will likely see more minutes in Brooks’ absence. Oliver isn’t a great rebounder and takes over half his shots from three point range where he’s connecting at just a 24% clip. Wing guards Jermaine Marshall and Cammeron Woodyard are the primary options off the Nittany Lion bench.

Michigan’s offense exploded the last time these teams played, scoring 1.27 points per possession and shooting 70% on twos and 40% on threes in a 76-69 win. The game was close because Michigan’s defense wasn’t great and Battle, Brooks, and Jackson essentially got whatever shots they wanted. Penn State’s big three combined for 62 of Penn State’s 69 points. The Wolverine defense handled Penn State’s secondary players but role players usually play significantly better at home.

Pomeroy’s numbers give Penn State a 69% chance at victory, projecting a final score of 64-59. Those numbers assume that Brooks, Penn State’s second best player, will play. Pomeroy just wrote an article about Korie Lucious, where he cautions that we typically overrate the loss of a single player. He concludes that the loss of Jimmer Fredette, the nation’s most valuable player, would be worth about 10 points per game. Given Penn State’s lack of depth, you would probably say Brooks’ absence is worth something like 5 or 6 points, putting this game in the toss-up range if Brooks doesn’t suit up.

  • Kenny

    Nice write-up. This is a must win game that is winnable as Penn state lacks interior threat and block.

  • Alex

    Go Blue! Beat the Nittany Lions.

  • This is a winable game. It’s going to be tough, but UM can win. I just hope our guards will be quick enough to contain Battle. We don’t have to shut him out, just hold him to around 15, 16 points.

  • grandchamp

    I kinda feel bad watching Trey Ziegler play for such an awful team.

  • MikeSal

    A win this could spark a run especially with the schedule we have coming up. If we play as “good” as we did against that team from ohio we have a great shot of winning. Key for the game: make your layups

  • um basketball fan
    • um basketball fan

      Anyone think this could be considered in our favor? Last season’s game over there, the place was empty (students were home on winter break). Will be interesting to see if this has affected anything at all.

    • Joel

      Wow I’d be furious if that was my team. Bon Jovi’s not even that good.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Michigan has had to practice in the IM building because of the Pow Wow at Crisler Arena. The practice facility can’t come soon enough.

  • KAB

    I just cant see Oliver taking the place of Brooks.If we can limit Battle under 25 points I like our chances…


  • Bill

    Burke scored his 1,000th point Friday night while his future college coach, John Beilein, was in the stands.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Just got back from Trey’s game tonight at Lakewood St. Edwards… Burke is going to make a lot of you guys happy. His team lost their first game of the season but not for lack of trying from Burke. Trey had around 35 points (something like 19 in the second) and almost single handedly willed Northland to victory. I’ll have video and a full scouting report later tonight.

      • Mattski

        Do you think he gets serious minutes next year, Dylan?

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          If I had to say right now, I’d have to say he’d at least backup Darius.

      • grandchamp

        I’ve heard the comparisons to Taylor Battle as he was a former PSU commit, who do you think he compares to the most?

  • Jammer

    GR III had a monster game tonight against East Chicago Central. Had 39 points and 8 boards. Kid seems like a player.

    • Ben


  • JimC

    I hope Brooks feels much better, after a nice two hour rest on the bench today.

  • KAB

    Dylan,do you see us actually winning this game?

  • Help! I’m in Portland, OR and nothing is open that has BTN at 9 a.m.!

  • jihadistjohn

    in case of tim doyle or shon morris, game is also on XM 143 & sirius 122…pause your DVR’s for three seconds and enjoy the PSU broadcast

  • Ricky

    Stream for the game anyone?