|Who: Penn State (8-16, 0-12 B1G) at No. 4 Michigan (21-4, 8-4 B1G)|
|Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)|
|When: 12:00 p.m., Sunday, February 17th, 2013|
|Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM, Sirius/XM 91|
|More: Beilein previews PSU, Pick to Click, Dedication|
Relief is on the way and Michigan needs it. After facing four of the league’s top five teams in 10 days, with three games on the road, the Wolverines will have a chance to regain their bearings at home. Michigan hosts Penn State – winless in 12 Big Ten games – at the Crisler Center on Sunday afternoon and will play on four days rest for the first time since mid-January.
While Michigan enters Sunday’s game after its worst performance of the season, a blowout loss at Michigan State, Penn State enters play after its best Big Ten performance of the season, a two point home loss to Iowa. The Nittany Lions rode an electric performance from DJ Newbill against the Hawkeyes and came tantalizingly close to their first league win.
Basketball is a fairly simple game and if you can’t put the ball in the hoop you aren’t going to win many games. Penn State’s lack of shooting accuracy has plagued its offense in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions are shooting 40% on twos, 26% on threes for a 40% effective field goal percentage. All three of those shooting statistics rank last in the Big Ten. Penn State turns the ball over once every five offensive possessions, second worst in the Big Ten, and rebounds less than 30% of its misses in Big Ten play (9th B1G). Just how bad is Penn State’s offense? At .87 points per trip in league play, the Nittany Lions are on pace to be the worst Big Ten offense in the KenPom era (2003+) and the only team to score less than .9 points per trip other than 2004 Penn State.
Defensively, Penn State is incrementally better but still ranks 10th in the league, surrendering 1.06 points per trip. The fatal flaw of the Nittany Lion defense is its tendency to foul. Big Ten opponents are shooting 58.5 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts – worst in the Big Ten. The one area where Penn State has excelled is on the defensive glass. The Nittany Lions are rebounding 70 percent of opponents misses in Big Ten play and actually rank ninth nationally in defensive rebounding for the season.
DJ Newbill was supposed to be the perfect complement to Tim Frazier before the season began. Then Frazier ruptured his left Achilles’ heel in the fourth game of the season. Frazier’s injury left Newbill as the focus of the Nittany Lion offense and the most used player in the conference. Newbill, a transfer from Southern Miss, has embraced the role but hasn’t been all too efficient. Newbill is shooting 45% on twos and 20% on threes for a 42% effective field goal percent. His assist numbers and strong and he gets to the free throw line often but his offensive rating of 91.8 is far from ideal for a high usage player.
Newbill averages 16 points per game while Jermaine Marshall is the only other Penn State player to average over 6.5 points per game. Marshall isn’t much more efficient, attempting 44% of his field goals from long range, he shoots 43% on twos and 31% on threes. Beyond Marshall and Newbill, Penn State’s other players have three double digit games combined in Big Ten play. There just aren’t other consistent scoring threats on the Nittany Lion roster.
Sasa Borovnjak is the most recent double digit scorer, collecting 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting against Iowa. Borovnjack is 6-foot-9, 240 pounds with good feet and is the most effective roll man for the Nittany Lions in the screen and roll game.
Ross Travis is a great defensive rebounder at 6-foot-6 but hits just 40 percent of his twos and 14 percent of his threes. Brandon Taylor is another big body, 6-foot-7, 235 pounds and provides strength around the basket with 41 percent two point shooting. Taylor isn’t scared to the shoot the three, 92 attempts, and connects at 30%. Former walk-on Nick Colella is just 3-of-11 inside the arc but has hit 24-of-74 (32%) threes this season.
Newbill and Marshall are capable of having big nights – the duo combined to score 56 points on 30 shots against Michigan State – and should demand the majority of Michigan’s defense attention. I would suspect Burke and Hardaway earn those defensive responsibilities and playing Penn State twice in the next two days could help Michigan gain the defensive confidence that has been lacking of late.
Ken Pomeroy’s numbers project a 79-54 Michigan win, and give the Nittany Lions just a 2 percent chance of an upset. Judging by Pomeroy’s rankings, Penn State is the worst team that Michigan has faced since Central Michigan in late December.
This & That: Sunday’s game is part of a stripe out for the Crisler Center Dedication weekend. Michigan will also be wearing all white throwback uniforms.