Penn State Basketball vs. No. 24 Ohio State Preview

Jamie Sabau

Penn State is "hot." Ohio State has hit a rough patch. This has the potential to get interesting.

Who: Ohio State Buckeyes (16-3, 3-4)
When: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Value Center Arena
TV: BTN
KenPom Rank: 17
Vegas Line: Ohio State -13
Enemy Blog: Land-Grant Holy Land

Who would have thought coming into conference play that Penn State and Ohio State would have the exact same record since January 7? Both teams are 1-4 in their last five games, although that is a bit misleading. Ohio State has looked brutal, by Ohio State standards, while Penn State has looked good, by Penn State standards. The issue for both teams has been closing games out, and in Ohio State's case, finding a way to put the orange leather thing through the hoop.

Had you asked me heading into B1G play, I would have said Penn State has no shot against OSU. Now? I'm telling you there's a chance.

Scouting The Opposition

Ohio State prides itself on two things: its defense and Aaron Craft flopping. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Buckeyes have the second best defense in America, and are 8th in the country in defensive points per game, mostly because its nonconference schedule was softer than two-ply the team has a better understanding of team defense than anyone in America. However, the Buckeyes have a harder time scoring than I do at bars after a few drinks. The team is 150th in America in points per game at 72.7 ppg. Its top scorers are averaging 14.1 and 12.1 a night. Woof.

The team is led by Craft and his absurdly rosy cheeks. For all the shit everyone gives him about flopping and not being a competent scorer, he may be the best point guard in America when it comes to leading a team and never letting the game get out of his control. He's averaging 9.3 points (eew), 4.9 assists (pretty good), 3.5 boards (solid for a guard), and 2.3 steals (egads!) a night, and plays very good on-ball defense. Even if it's illegal. But whatever.

As for guys who can score, LaQuinton Ross (14.1 points per game) and Lenzelle Smith (12.1 ppg) carry the Buckeyes, and even clean up on the glass, pulling down 5.6 and 5.0 boards a night, respectively. Outside of them, Ohio State's cupboard is pretty bare offensively. Amir Williams is averaging 8.9 points and 6.6 rebounds a night, while Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott are averaging a shade under 8 points a game (7.7 and 7.6 ppg, respectively).

As a team, Ohio State sucks at scoring, is really good at defending, and struggles on the glass, pulling down 35.4 boards a night, which is 180th in the country. One really interesting to look out for: Ohio State is trash from behind the arc and the free throw line, knocking down 34.4 percent of their threes, which is 158th nationally, and converting on 68.6 percent of their free throws, which is 209th nationally. If Penn State can get out of its recent shooting slump, it has a chance due to Ohio State's offensive incompetence.

Key Matchup

Tim Frazier vs. Aaron Craft. Duh. This may be the best PG matchup in the Big Ten. Frazier is the better scoring PG in the conference, while Craft is the best defensive PG in the conference. While Frazier isn't going to out-GRIT or SCRaP or WORK or HUSTLE Craft, he can absolutely go out there and use his superior athleticism and ability to give Craft all he can handle. Or Craft will shut Frazier down. One of the two.

Prediction

If Penn State can push the tempo and make Ohio State uncomfortable -- along with convert from downtown -- the Nittany Lions will in this game. However, the Buckeyes weren't the #3 team in America on accident. This team can play, and its specialty is making the opposition uncomfortable. Penn State hasn't exactly handled adversity well this year, which is why I'm picking the Buckeyes to win. The game will be closer than people think, but in the end, I think the Buckeyes come out on top, 61-55.

Also, a special bonus prediction in the form of an SAT analogy. D.J. Newbill will be to Aaron Craft what Danny Green was to Greg Paulus. Since Paulus and his absurdly punchable face are now Buckeyes, I predict that he will get PTSD when it happens, start screaming in a made up language, and have to leave the arena while I, with a beer in hand at Champs, giggle uncontrollably.

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