It's hard to remember a Penn State basketball game this early in the season that has been quite as anticipated as tonight's matchup against Maryland in the next-to-last game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Bryce Jordan Center (9:15 P.M., ESPN2).
The Terrapins are defending ACC co-champions and boast a star at forward, 6'10" Jordan Williams, averaging over 17 points and 11 rebounds per game along with being among the highest profile out-of-conference programs to come to the Bryce Jordan Center ever. All that should be enough to get any true basketball fan excited.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, though, depending upon how you look at it, the twitter hash tag #MDHateWeek has pushed things to another level. Started earlier in the week, fans on both sides have bantered back and forth there mostly harmlessly. However, some tweets have stirred a little controversy. It's good that this whole thing has sparked some interest in this game for both fan bases, though we wish some people had a little more taste in how they've approached it.
Now onto the basketball...
With Williams underneath, the Terrapins will be very dangerous against a Penn State front court with only 6'10" Andrew Jones taller than 6'8". That said, both forwards David Jackson and Jeff Brooks have looked good in the early going for the Lions, averaging a combined 27.5 points and 12 rebounds and should keep things respectable down low for Penn State. Advantage: Maryland
Talor Battle will be the best guard on the floor for either team, but with swing man Cliff Tucker and slasher Adrian Bowie, the Terps won't be too short of Penn State in that department. In order for Penn State to maintain any kind of edge here, Tim Frazier needs to distribute the basketball to his scorers on offense and play solid defense as he did on Sunday against Furman. Advantage: Penn State
When Maryland Has The Ball
The Terapins are in the top 50 nationally in scoring at just a tick over 80 points per game. If they get to that number Wednesday night, Penn State is going to lose. Fortunately for Penn State, Maryland is poor where Penn State is vulnerable, behind the three-point line, shooting only 28% from deep in the early going. The Terps are also shooting a horrid 65% from the free throw line. If Penn State can keep Maryland from hitting some deep shots and take away easy buckets inside by putting the Terps on the line, things could get interesting. We'll give the edge to Maryland here, though if Penn State focuses in a few key areas on defense, it could easily shift in the other direction. Advantage: Maryland
When Penn State Has The Ball
Both Pittsburgh and Illinois got to the line a bunch in wins over Maryland a couple of weeks ago in New York, which is why it will be important for Penn State to attack the basket early and often. The Lions can ill-afford to play the ring-around-the-arc game they routinely did last season. They must attack the interior defense of the Terrapins to draw fouls and potentially put Williams on the bench early. If Penn State can do that, it'll threaten 65-70 points, which might be enough to win. If they don't, it could be a very long night. Advantage: Maryland
Penn State had a lot of trouble last season matching up with talented players from other teams as Ohio State's Evan Turner, Illinois' Demetri McCamey and Purdue's E'Twaun Moore all had big days against the Lions in games against them last year. If Penn State is going to have a chance in this game, it's going to have to shut down Jordan Williams. The Lions need to attack him from every angle from putting him either on the foul line or the bench to collapsing the defense on him so that he doesn't touch orange in the first place. Doing that will put them in a favorable matchup with the rest of the Maryland roster. Failure will almost surely mean a loss. That said, until I see the Lions do it, I'm not going to believe they can. I'm going with Maryland in this one. Pick: Maryland 75, Penn State 67.