What to Expect: Penn State

  • 01/18/2017 6:59 am in

Indiana travels to State College on Wednesday night for a critical matchup with Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions are 11-7 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast at 7 p.m. ET on BTN with Jeff Levering and Stephen Bardo on the call:

Indiana is running out of time to break through in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have played five of their 18 conference games and are sitting at just 2-3.

Yes, it’s technically still early in league play, but the problem is that eight of Indiana’s remaining 13 conference games are on the road. The path to 9-9 or better means Indiana has to win at least two road games and that assumes no more slip ups at home, which is no guarantee.

How big is Wednesday’s game at Penn State? If you put any stock into KenPom’s win probabilities, it’s enormous. Here’s a look at Indiana’s remaining Big Ten road games with Pomeroy’s chances of an Indiana win (as of Tuesday, Jan. 17):

Pomeroy is projecting just three road wins for Indiana and Wednesday’s game is one of them. And of the three, it’s Indiana’s second best chance at a win away from Bloomington remaining on the schedule. As John Gasaway correctly pointed out today over at ESPN Insider ($), Indiana can’t take anything for granted the rest of the way.

MEET THE NITTANY LIONS

Two of Indiana’s next five games are against the Nittany Lions, who have won three of their last four. That stretch included a nine-point win over Michigan State at the Palestra and a 2-point win over Minnesota in State College.

Penn State has come a long way since a home loss to Albany to begin the season and a 19-point blowout loss at home to George Mason on Dec. 7. The Nittany Lions play as hard as any team in the league and are beginning to see positive results.

The scouting report begins with 6-foot-2 junior guard Shep Garner, the team’s leading scorer. Garner loves the ball screen – something that Indiana has struggled to defend – but has really struggled with his efficiency in Big Ten play. Garner’s effective field goal percentage in five conference games is just 34.7. His 12.4 points per game lead Penn State.

The arrival of freshman point guard Tony Carr, a former Indiana recruiting target, has allowed Garner to play more off of the ball. He leads Penn State in assists (3.7 per game), but is also struggling with his shooting in league play. Carr is shooting just 35.5 percent on 2s and 29.4 percent on 3s in Big Ten games.

A third guard, 6-foot-4 sophomore Josh Reaves, also starts and is a valuable contributor. Reaves is long and can defend as his steal percentage is eleventh in the country. He’s probably a good bet to spend significant time on James Blackmon Jr. While he’s limited offensively, Reaves does a nice job using his athleticism to draw fouls and get to the foul line. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in league play is 43.9 percent.

Payton Banks, a 6-foot-6 junior, comes off the bench and is Penn State’s third leading scorer. He’s shooting a team-best 39.7 percent on 3s. The Nittany Lions have only made 85 catch-and-shoot jump shots this season and Banks has 33 of them.

Another former Indiana recruiting target, Lamar Stevens, is one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen on the wing for Penn State. Stevens visited Bloomington and was a high school (Roman Catholic) and AAU teammate (Team Final) of Carr. His 12.2 points per game are second on the team and he’s also second in rebounding at 5.8 per game. Stevens is an energy player who loves to play physical. He’s finishing close to 48 percent of his 2s.

In the post, junior Julian Moore is the starter but redshirt freshman Mike Watkins is a force. In Big Ten play, the 6-foot-9, 246 pound Watkins is third in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage and ninth in block percentage. He’s averaging 9.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in league games.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

Pat Chambers has Penn State defending at a high level, but the Nittany Lions are struggling offensively. Penn State is great at getting to the foul line, but their offense really struggles overall in the half court.

Penn State is playing the second fastest tempo in league play and it’s clear they are a much better offensive team in transition. The Nittany Lions rank in just the 16th percentile nationally in half court offense, but in the 71st percentile in transition. Indiana has never shied away from pushing the pace, but it might be a strong consideration in this contest.

It’ll be surprising if Indiana’s offense comes anywhere close to its average output (1.16 PPP), so if the Hoosiers hope to win one away from home, the defense must travel. Indiana was able to hold Rutgers down on Sunday, but this will be a better litmus test to gauge where Indiana stands defensively. Penn State hasn’t scored more than 1.06 points per trip in a Big Ten game. Indiana has only given up less than 1.14 once. Something has to give on Wednesday.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

KenPom likes Indiana by four with a 65 percent chance for victory. Sagarin likes Indiana by 5.5. Based on recent evidence, that seems high. Penn State is trending upward while Indiana, outside of Sunday, is really hard to gauge.

The Hoosiers are 3-1 in their last four trips to State College with the lone defeat in that stretch coming during last season’s 15-3 run to the league crown.

This is a crucial week for Indiana with Michigan State looming on Saturday in Bloomington. At 2-3, Indiana’s margin for error is basically gone. Can the Hoosiers start building some momentum with a much needed win on the road?

(Photo credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

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  • vicbert caladipo

    Are they any different than you? You are saying we’ll win….bring it on and they are saying the same thing. I guess I missed the point too.

  • eville87

    This team has to win 4 more in a row to make the tourney based on the schedule. A game at Penn State in January for your season? Smh. What a cluster. But I will still be watching and screaming at the tv when we sub at the 16.24 Mark of the first half.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    IU is solidly in the field right now. Why would we need to win 4 in a row to make the dance? Why would one game in the middle of January decide your fate for March? Now, we aren’t in as good of shape as we were a month ago, but we aren’t even on the bubble right now.

  • pcantidote

    This game is Fort Wayne 2.0. Well, 3.0 if you count the Nebraska game. Be prepared to be incredibly frustrated unless we happen to be red hot from 3.

  • mharv2631

    He’s (Hayes) is a cancer, and I would avoid him like the plague if I owned an NBA team.

  • JethroTroll

    For starters, please show me where I said IU will win this game. Secondly, I guess you missed the part where he said PSU is ‘squarely in the mix and have a legit chance to contend for the regular season title’. That was the reason behind my post. You’re not alone though, as it looks like a few others missed it as well. Or, even worse, you and others here think there’s validity in that statement.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    In some respects, I thought that was part of the fun of fandom.

  • random anti-wisconsin rant

  • eville87

    Because with what’s coming up the rest of the year we may not finish .500 in conference. Simple

  • Ha. They follow instructions and think inside the box very well. Very Mitchy.

  • I think the point is that literally all the teams are at least average, and a few teams who are above that. Overall, that would make the conference stronger, as a whole.

  • Neil

    They will lose. Penn St. has a superrior coach less talent but at home. This all = an IU loss.

  • Rutgers will probably end up serving that purpose.

  • Missing Moye

    I’ll actually be a bit surprised if we win this, as these are the teams we typically lose to – tough defensive, physical, hustling teams. Add in that it’s on the road, and we may be without Morgan, and it doesn’t sound good.

    Further looking into the numbers, PSU excels in turning opponents over, defensive rebounding, and getting to the line.

  • Piker

    Just heard JM not dressed and in boot

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    OG down. Damn.

  • Jesus. Doesn’t seem like the injuries will ever end. That’s not looking good — he’s in some serious pain.

  • ForeverIU

    To hell with this team, I’m sick of it.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    My God, these IU players don’t stop dribbling along the baseline and then turn it over!!!

  • McFly just channeled OG on that dunk.

  • Dignan72

    I just read your cheap snipe at Juwan Morgan because he was injured again. That is really low. As another poster stated, Juwan should have more than proved his toughness last season by the way he came back repeatedly from his shoulder injuries.
    If you want to question someone, question the official as to how he managed not to stay separated from Morgan.
    When is the last time you saw a player injured by stepping on an official’s foot? I don’t know that I ever have. Regardless, my main point is your remark toward Juwan was unwarranted.

  • Dammit. Now DD is down.

  • Ben thorne

    I”ll say

  • Ben thorne

    Dear Coach Crean – Please have 3 set inbounds plays by next game. Love, Ben

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Wow, what an ending.It couldn’t end fast enough either.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    You didn’t answer my question, though. Why would they have to win four in a row? That’s just an interesting comment to me.

  • eville87

    Crazy game what a final shot. Now we are 3 and 3. We actually are closer to the bubble and you think. If Og is ok we are way better than 8 or 9 seed. So what I was saying it was a must win. As the next 3 are.

  • eville87

    Geez. If the lose 5 of the next 8 they won’t be solidly in the field. They have now won 2 in a row over Rutgers and Penn State. They need 3 more to get to 17 and 6? (Not sure I will have to look) but they are solidly an 8 or a 9 seed ya! Insert sarcasm. I guess what I was trying to communicate is an 8 seed sucks. If they continue to lose 5 out of 8 they will not make it period. So last night really was a must win imo.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Then say an 8 seed sucks. I’d agree with you. But we don’t have to win “4 in a row.” We need to win games. If we win three in a row and then lose the 4th, we aren’t going to miss the NCAA because we failed to win 4 in a row.