Las Vegas Classic Preview
The Las Vegas Classic has eight participants separated by the titles of either being a host team, or a visiting team. The Hosts’ championship bracket consists of undefeated SMU (9-0), Kent State (7-2), Colorado (10-1), and Penn State (8-3). In the Visitors’ bracket, Hampton squares up against Nicholls State, and Louisiana-Monroe battles Canisius. Being guaranteed two tough games in two nights, the Nittany Lions could pull off signature resume building victories.
Penn State vs. Colorado – 10:30 PM EST @ Oracle Arena
Pat Chambers’ squad received a tough draw in the first round of the Las Vegas Classic. Colorado stands at 10-1 with their only loss coming in the season opener against now No. 5 ranked Iowa State. The Buffaloes are on a 10 game winning streak, but the quality of opponents can be questioned. The lack of competition may lead some to question how Colorado comes out against a competitive opponent in Penn State.
The Nittany Lions come into this tournament on a bit of a roll with three consecutive victories. The scoring duo of Brandon Taylor (15.6 PPG) and Shep Garner (14.6 PPG) have emerged to limit the scoring woes and stagnant offensive possessions Penn State experienced earlier in the season. Rebounding has been troublesome all year for the Nittany Lions, and this may be exposed against Colorado, who averages eight more rebounds per game than the Nittany Lions.
Colorado features Josh Scott, who averages nearly a double-double with 19 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Scott can also spread the floor by shooting 40 percent from behind the arc. George King averages 15.4 points a game and will also give Chambers’ defensive scheme some trouble.
The Nittany Lions’ seven-foot center, Jordan Dickerson, will be pivotal in this matchup against their frontcourt. Dickerson has not shown that he is physical enough to compete down low in the post against Colorado’s bigs. I look for Colorado to advance to 11-1 and face an undefeated SMU squad in the Las Vegas Classic championship.
Prediction: Colorado 71 Penn State 59
Kent State vs. Penn State – Hosts’ Third Place Game
Penn State getting a victory in the consolation round of the tournament should be expected. The teams in their bracket are highly competitive squads who will be tournament teams come March.
Penn State should be able to capitalize against a Kent State team that is only shooting 64 percent from the free throw line, and a poor 31 percent from beyond the arc. The Golden Flashes average 10 more points per game than the Nittany Lions, but Penn State’s length should cause obstacles for Kent State on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Jordan Dickerson’s size should make it tough for Kent State leading scorer Jimmy Hall to score down low, where all of his points have exclusively come from. Dickerson leads all tournament players in blocks per game with 2.4, and I expect him to continue that trend and bother Hall.
Penn State will need to be physical down low or Kent State may be able to leave Vegas with a victory if they get a few threes to fall. It is a problem when your 7’1” center is averaging fewer rebounds per game than your 6’4” guard. This may be the game where Dickerson adjusts to the physical aspect of college basketball and plays the way Chambers expects him to. Expect the Nittany Lions to win the rebounding battle and pull out a close victory off a clutch performance by Garner down the stretch.
Prediction: Penn State 67 Kent State 61
Dave Correll is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.