I don't think Pat Chambers could have dreamt of a better schedule to begin on the road with his new team. After going home to Philadelphia over the past weekend, Chambers heads back to Boston where he coached the past two years before PSU. Thankfully, there is good reason to believe this trip against the Boston College Eagles in the 13th annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge will be better than the Lions' last one. Tipoff is set for 7:15, and the game will be on ESPNU.
The Big Ten took a commanding 4-2 lead after Tuesday's action and is in good position to win its third challenge in a row. Penn State will look to avenge the egg it laid in last year's challenge against Maryland to help the Big Ten's cause. They face a Boston College squad that is even younger and more inexperienced than themselves. To show the general disregard for BC, bookies have made PSU a 4.5 road favorite for tonight's contest. This on the heels of the terrible shooting display against a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic-10 squad Saturday.
I feel bad for Steve Donahue. He took over Al Skinner's program last year and inherited a talented roster. The problem was all the talent wasn't going to stay long. After making the NIT last season, 7 seniors graduated and Reggie Jackson left for the NBA. In his first full season as a head coach, Steve Donahue and his staff had to reel in a huge make-or-break recruiting class. The 9 man class Donahue has brought to Chestnut Hill is likely going to determine his fate at BC.
So far that class, a transfer from Oregon, and a few holdovers are really struggling at the start of the season. They're just 2-4 on the season with losses to St. Louis, New Mexico, Holy Cross, and UMass by 36 at home. They understandably have a long way to go before Donahue can work some magic, but right now they are dreadful. Penn State certainly doesn't have much room to talk, but the biggest advantage for PSU is Tim Frazier. No one on the floor will have the experience or ability Frazier does.
Nine guys have started for Boston College and they've gone 11-deep, so who knows who will start for the Eagles tonight. Oregon transfer Matt Humphrey is their leading shot taker, but he's shot worse individually to start the year than all of the Nittany Lions. The 6-5 junior guard is averaging 11 points on 12 shots a game. 6-5 German frosh Patrick Heckmann exploded for 32 against UC-Riverside, but he's been inconsistent thus far. He can play the 1-3 positions and was recruited by the likes of Michigan and Maryland.
They also have some size in Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford. Anderson is the most heralded of the freshmen class and is averaging 8.2 PPG and 5.7 RPG. The 6-8 combo forward can step out and hit the three. Clifford is a 7-footer who has gotten off to a good start to his collegiate career. He's shooting 47.2% for the year and averages 7.8 PPG and 5.2 RPG.
As mentioned, Penn State has a huge advantage at the PG position. To be honest, I'm not even sure if BC has a true PG on its roster. One would assume 5-8 true freshmen Jordan Daniels would fit the position, but he only played a total of 22 minutes in their 3 games at the 76 classic. No one is averaging more than 2 assists a game, and Donahue has signed two PGs in his 2012 class. They do have 6-1 sophomore Gabe Moton and returning walk-on John Cahill, who both will log big minutes, but they average just 2.7 and 4.5 PPG respectively.
Regardless of Penn State's offensive struggles, they can win this game. They will likely have to win ugly, unless they find their shooting touch in Boston. But Penn State should be able to sustain an edge on the boards and force many Boston College turnovers (23.7% TO% on the year). We should see some 1-2-2 press, and it will likely have some success as it did against South Florida. It's also worth noting that BC has shot the exact same eFG% through this point in the season (44.3%). If PSU can force Humphrey to continue his struggles from the floor and keep Heckmann cold from behind the arc, they should be able to muster enough points for a nice road win.
I'm thinking Tim will have a big performance to bounce back from SJU, Matt Glover will harass Humphrey and keep him from finding a rhythm, and Trey Lewis will have a good shooting night. I've got PSU winning 55-50 in an ugly game that will likely be made fun of all night on ESPN. Who ya got?