Game Preview: Men’s Basketball vs. Michigan
Host Dale Ostrander and analysts Ben Geller and Jeremy Ganes preview the upcoming matchup against Michigan.
Penn State (13-5) will travel to Michigan (11-6) this Wednesday for a critical Big Ten showdown. The Nittany Lions dropped out of the AP Top 25 Poll the previous week, but they inched closer to reclaiming a spot in the rankings with a 90-76 home victory against previous-ranked Ohio State. A game in Ann Arbor would have looked significantly tougher a couple of weeks ago, but this Wolverines team is reeling after two losses last week.
Penn State has been inconsistent in its offensive play, which leads to great wins and tough losses. The game against Minnesota started off well with 46 points and a halftime lead, but the second half was a different story, as the Nittany Lions scored only 23 points en route to a loss. The next game against Ohio State ended much better than the first meeting between the two teams thanks to Penn State’s consistent, electric offensive play, posting 42 points in the first half and 48 in the second.
Home-court advantage is evident in the Big Ten this year, resulting in a much larger amount of upsets than usual. Every team in the Big Ten besides the bottom two (Nebraska and Northwestern) has at most a single loss at home, and we’re already almost halfway through conference play. The Big Ten is chock-full of tournament-caliber teams, and Penn State will have to play that much better to overcome the home-court advantage that the Wolverines have.
The main player to watch for the Nittany Lions is forward Lamar Stevens. Stevens is averaging 16 points per game and is shooting 45% from the field, but he also plays some of the best defense in the country. If he gets his isolation offense going, then Penn State is as good as any because of the team’s versatility and the number of shooters that it can put on the floor. The experience that Stevens brings to a Penn State squad that very infrequently gets four-year starters is critical and has put Penn State over the edge in several games.
Arguably just as important to the Nittany Lions is center Mike Watkins. Penn State rides and dies with Watkins because of his physical play, which sets the tone for the team. When the center is not involved, Penn State depends too much on its shooting and tends to have trouble. Watkins will need to be sharp with a physical and smart Michigan team up next.
Michigan senior point guard Zavier Simpson is one of the most underrated guards in college basketball. Simpson averages a middling 12 points per game but makes up for it by being one of the best passers in the country with eight assists per contest. He is the difference-maker for a Michigan team that often has trouble shooting the ball. If he can find big man Jon Teske consistently, then the Wolverines will be a physically demanding team to deal with.
The matchup between Penn State and Michigan is shaping up to be a classic, and the battle inside between Teske and Watkins will likely determine the winner. Although the Wolverines should have the advantage since they are at home, the Nittany Lions will ride their recent momentum to another big victory.
Prediction: Penn State 65, Michigan 63
Ben Geller is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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