Penn State vs. Indiana Preview: A First B1G Win Up For Grabs

Ben Woloszyn-USA TODAY Sports

Somebody's going to get their biggest win of the season so far. No, really.

Who: Indiana Hoosiers (10-5, 0-2)
When: Saturday, 12:00pm
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: BTN
KenPom Rank: 66
KenPom Line: Penn State -1 (I know!)
Enemy Blog: Crimson Quarry

It's been a demoralizing start to conference play for Penn State. An other-worldly first half against Michigan State was as good as it's been over the last three games, and after Wednesday's shoddy performance against Minnesota, the Lions could really use a pick-me-up. And believe it or not, the chance to play against Tom Crean's Indiana at this moment might be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, IU is thinking the same thing about this BJC encounter, and a victory over PSU would give the Hoosiers their first top-100 RPI win (yes, Penn State is 91st in RPI. I KNOW!) Something's gotta give here.

Scouting The Opposition

Replacing Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls was never going to be an easy task, and as such Indiana isn't nearly the juggernaut they were at times last season. They still kill teams on the glass (5th in the nation), and Noah Vonleh is a big part of that. The freshman averages just under ten boards a game and is a good bet to notch his sixth career double-double against PSU's frontline. The Nittany Lions' other problematic characteristic on defense has been their opponent's three-point shooting; fortunately for them, Indiana hasn't been particularly prolific from deep, aside from Yogi Ferrell. The sophomore point guard was expected to become more of a scorer in his second year and he's done just that, averaging 17.7 points per game on 45% shooting from range. This has come at the expense of his point guard duties, however - Ferrell is averaging 3.1 turnovers compared to 4.0 assists per game.

Crean's struggles in planning against the zone are well known, so don't be surprised to see some 2-3 on Saturday. Pat Chambers has shown he's not afraid to switch things up after tossing freshman Geno Thorpe into the starting five against Minnesota, and Penn State's man-to-man has been leaky at best against teams that move the ball well. Having a shot-blocker like Jordan Dickerson in the arsenal should only increase the likelihood of a defensive switch-up.

Key Matchup

It was rather incredible that Penn State was able to take the Gophers down to the wire without a single contribution from D.J. Newbill. The junior fouled out in 14 minutes on the floor without a single point, rebound or assist. Needless to say, the Lions can't afford to have the conference's now-seventh leading scorer have another dud, especially when he'll be matched up with a Will Sheehey-Evan Gordon combination. The former is a grizzled B1G veteran and the latter is capable of some big scoring outings. Of course, the Ferrell-Tim Frazier matchup will be one hell of a battle, but PSU simply doesn't have a chance without Newbill returning to form.

Prediction

Wednesday's loss was probably the most heartbreaking of the season, all things considered, and it rightfully quashed any hopes the Lions have of reaching the postseason. Unless...nope. Even with a win, still quashed. But a win sure would be nice against a program with some prestige, and you have to crawl before you can dance. Unfortunately, I think the struggles continue because Vonleh can't be stopped by anyone on Penn State's roster. Indiana 72, Penn State 67. Here's to being wrong.

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