At 5:00pm on ESPN2, Penn State will open its Puerto Rico Tip-off against the sixth-ranked team in the country, N.C. State. The Wolfpack are coming off a thrashing of Miami (OH) and are the clear-cut favorites to win this preseason tournament.
Mark Gottfried's squad was picked to finish ahead of Duke and North Carolina and win the ACC by the conference's coaches, so this is one helluva test for the Nittany Lions this early in the season. N.C. State is led in the backcourt by 6'5" point guard Lorenzo Brown, who averaged 13 points, six assists and five rebounds per game in 2011-12. Brown is paired with McDonalds All-American freshman Rodney Purvis, who scored 16 points of 6-11 shooting in the team's season opener. Purvis is one of three heralded freshmen for the Wolfpack, along with guard Tyler Lewis and wing T.J. Warren, who will see meaningful minutes.
As daunting as the backcourt seems, the frontcourt may be the Wolfpack's biggest strength. Forward C.J. Leslie is one of the country's premier big men, and will most certainly hear his name called by Adam Silver in April. Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak will have their hands full with Leslie, not to mention senior forward Richard Howell who averaged a team-high nine boards last season. Keeping the rebounding numbers close will be vital for the Nittany Lions if they want a chance of pulling the upset. Senior Scott Wood is a 6'6" swingman who's deadly from distance, and we all know how well Penn State handles these type of players (hate u, Diebs).
After Penn State's blasé performance against St. Francis, the Nittany Lions are hoping the change of scenery will help their shooting woes. They shot a dismal 3-24 from behind the arc on Friday night and will obviously need to improve on that percentage (12.5%) to have a chance against such a quality opponent. As we've discussed here at BSD, it would be nice to see D.J. Newbill pass up more three-point attempts in favor of mid-range shots, which seems to be one of the major strengths of his game. And if Friday was any indication, getting to the free throw line early and often is one of this team's strengths, and being able to slow down the game against the high-octane Wolfpack will go a long way towards a potential upset.
All-Everything guard Tim Frazier was named to the Naismith Award Watch List this week (as were Leslie and Brown for N.C. State) and comes into tonight's game seven points shy of becoming the Nittany Lions' 30th 1,000 point scorer in program history. Congrats in advance, Tim.
And if you were under a rock yesterday, Penn State locked in its four-man 2013 recruiting class. Eric has everything you'll ever want to read about this here.
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