Penn State at Michigan Preview: Lions Look For First Win In Ann Arbor

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Let's not have to fire up the 0-18 watch, ok guys?

Who: Michigan Wolverines (11-4, 3-0)
When: Tonight, 8:00pm
Where: Crisler Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 19
Vegas Line: Michigan -13
Enemy Blog: Maize N Brew, UM Hoops

It's only January 14th, but the Big Ten season has gone awry already after PSU's 0-4 start. After two maddening losses at home to Minnesota and Indiana, the Lions face a stiffer test on the road against Michigan. It seems almost hopeless waiting for someone on this team to take a stand against failing efforts, but there has to be a leader somewhere on this team, right? Perhaps tonight is the night someone emerges. My hope is for Boss Travis to breakout after his great success against Michigan last year.

Scouting the Opposition

Michigan has faced plenty of adversity so far on season, yet they're already off to a 3-0 start in the B1G. Granted it helps having the bottom-dwellers overload the start of your conference schedule, but they did pick up a nice road win at the Barn vs Minnesota and survived a scare against Nebraska in their B1G-unveiling of Pinnacle Bank Arena.

It's been a positive start for John Beilein's team, considering it came in limping into Big Ten play. Right before 2014, Mitch McGary decided to end his season early by optioning for surgery on his bad back. His announcement came after Michigan had already lost four non-conference games.

Without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. (and McGary), the Wolverines have relied heavily on Nik Stauskas' increased role in the offense. The Canadian wing continues to be a lights-out shooter (45.9% from 3), but he has been relentless attacking the rim as well (65.2 FTR). He is the key to Beilein's offense with his stellar 129.8 rating (that leads the Big Ten!) on 23.0% possession%.

True freshman point guard Derrick Walton has had his ups and downs at the position, but he continues to progress for Michigan. He's put up nearly 10 points/game in his first three B1G contests with 9 assists and 5 turnovers. He can (and will) shoot it, but he tends to be the 3rd or 4th option when he's on the floor.

Michigan has tremendous size on the perimeter with Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Caris Levert (who has made a huge sophomore leap in production), and another true frosh in 6'6" Zak Irvin. Down low, Beilein has turned to veterans Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford to pick up McGary's void in the middle.

Key Matchup

No opposing matchup really matters when a team is not maximizing their effort. #ATTITUDE has quickly vanished from State College. When's the last time you saw PSU players run over to pickup a fallen teammate? Regardless, this team continues to play dumb, careless basketball defined by unforced turnovers and destructive fouls. When you put up every possible roadblock to success for yourself, does it really matter what the opponent is doing?

(But Penn State defending the three-point line in addition to owning the glass would go a long way to pulling off another Michigan shocker!)

Prediction

A better effort, but too many Michigan 3's bury the Lions. Penn State covers but falters yet again down the stretch.

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