Iowa vs Penn State Preview: Grind Continues At Home Against Ranked Hawkeyes

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Spor

Lions are coming home high off an amazing comeback in Bloomington, but face the well-rested Hawkeyes for the first time this season.

Who: #16 Iowa Hawkeyes (18-6, 7-4)
When: 1:00pm
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPNU
KenPom Rank: 8
Vegas Line: TBD, KenPom Iowa -9
Enemy Blog: Black Heart Gold Pants

After a thrilling, come-from-behind upset of Indiana on Wednesday, the Lions return to snowy State College to face one of the league's best teams in the Iowa Hawkeyes. Fran McCaffery's club is off to their best season under his tutelage, already spending a good portion of this season in the Top 25 rankings. They are well on their way to earning their first NCAA berth since the Steve Alford era in 2006.

Penn State looks to keeping building up through their rocky season so far, temporarily getting the train back on track with their late heroics in Bloomington after a derailing effort last weekend at home against the Illini. Only three home games remain for PSU and all against ranked opponents, but the Lions will look to cash in another big upset this year before the season is finished.

Scouting The Opposition

This is McCaffery's fourth season at the helm since joining the program back in 2010 after a successful stint at Siena. Every season Iowa has gotten better and thanks to quality recruiting, the Hawkeyes have the deepest bench in the league, consistently playing 11 guys at least 20% of the available minutes.

The strength of this team is their scoring depth as they average 83.7 PPG. They are the fifth most efficient offensive unit in the country, according to KenPom.com, and have 10 players averaging at least 5 points per contest. Senior wing Roy Devyn Marble leads the way at 16.5 PPG, and he's coming off a 26-point outburst in a huge home win over Michigan last weekend. He's a strong Big Ten Player of the Year candidate.

Former Ed DeChellis target Aaron White continues to be McCaffery's cornerstone recruit in his reclamation project in Iowa City. The athletic junior has been a thorn in the side of Penn State's frontcourt in his first two years, scoring 27 points against PSU in Carver Hawkeye Arena last season.

The rest of Iowa's attack comprise mostly of underclassmen who fill their roles beautifully. Sophomore point guard Mike Gesell is deceptively quick with the ball in his hands and has numerous weapons around him at his disposal. He averages 7.6 PPG, 3.8 APG and 1.3 SPG. The Hawkeyes' size up front should be problematic for PSU with 7-footer Adam Woodbury, controversial Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff (6'9") and the 6'9" White. They are a strong offensive rebounding team (38.6%), an area that has been a major issue for Penn State in conference play.

Iowa will look to push the tempo as much as possible and wear down the Lions' backcourt. Transition defense will be key for Penn State if they are to compete for 40 minutes. The Hawkeyes have too many weapons and have had a full week's rest, which should prove to be a good advantage for Fran McCaffery's team in this coaching matchup of Philadelphia natives.

Key Matchup

A lot of keys for Penn State in this game, if they want to come up big and continue their winning ways. The Lions have to defend without fouling, they need quality production from behind the three-point line, and they need DJ Newbill and Tim Frazier to both play at a high level. You have to rely on the studs when trying to slay a better opponent.

Chambers has to keep working his rotation much like he did against Indiana to keep his players fresh as they try to match Iowa's high-octane energy.

Prediction

This is arguably Penn State's toughest game remaining on the schedule. It could also be the best crowd on hand so far this season after an upset win and a great partnership with Uplifting Athletes. You never know with this Penn State team, but they've struggled against the top teams of the league. I'll be taking the Hawks to run away down the stretch and win by 12, 85-73.

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