It's Super Bowl Sunday, but Ed DeChellis and Co. have some business to take care of before busting out the nachoes and deli platters. Penn State will host Michigan at noon today on the Big Ten Network, looking to pick up a must-have win against a mediocre Wolverine squad. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Michigan took Penn State down in Ann Arbor back in January with hot shooting and a diversified attack. the Wolverines shot 57% from the field and got double figure scoring from four of their five starters. They've lost seven of nine games since then, however, beating only a scuffling Michigan State team and cellar dweller Iowa, meaning they could be very vulnerable away from home.
Penn State will be looking to bounce back from a brow-beating at Illinois on Tuesday. The Lions were picked apart on defense and, thanks in part to major travel problems in the face of the mid-week snowstorm in the Midwest, looked zapped of their energy. To make matters worse, leading rebounder Jeff Brooks suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first half of that game. He's listed as day-to-day and the injury isn't considered very serious, but he likely won't play this afternoon.
As far as the big picture goes, this is a game Penn State has to have. There aren't many games the Lions will be favored in the rest of the way, but this is one of them, and if they have any hope of dancing in March, they simply cannot let the Wolverines sweep them.
Keys to the game after the jump
When Michigan Has The Ball
- The Michigan guards were very effective in Ann Arbor. Zack Novak was 5-6 for 15 points and Darius Morris was 6-10 for 20 points. Stu Douglass and Matt Vogrich came off the bench to add six and eight points, respectively, too. Penn State can't allow them to shoot that well in this game, especially at home.
- Penn State conceded 40% from the arc in the last matchup, but honestly, it probably should have been worse than that considering the volume of good deep looks the Lions offered. Michigan loves to shoot the three and Penn State is weak in guarding the perimeter. With Brooks likely out, look for the Lions to play three guards a little more than normal to help with perimeter defense, which must improve in this game for Penn State to have a chance.
- Tim Hardaway was one of the few players Penn State guarded well in the first matchup, as he scored only two points. Keeping him out of the scoring column again will be a big help.
When Penn State Has The Ball
- Someone has to fill the scoring void Brooks' absence leaves for Penn State. Tim Frazier showed flashes of potential in Champaign, racking up 11 points, but a little help from Billy Oliver and Jermaine Marshall, who both figure to see significant minutes, would help considerably.
- The Lions need to do a better job of keeping the game at their pace in this one. Beyond Purdue, Michigan is the only team to score north of 70 points on Penn State in conference, and a lot of that can be attributed to the Wolverines controlling the pace and getting more looks because of it. If the Lions can slow things down, it'll be much easier to keep the game in the 60s where they're comfortable.
- Andrew Jones didn't score in Ann Arbor. He's really turned his game around since then, so look for him to make an impact in this game.
Penn State has beaten much better teams than Michigan this season and has played especially well at home in conference play. If the Lions can avoid the mistakes of the first matchup and seize on the crowd's energy, they should win relatively easily. Brooks' absence is a wild card, though. Penn State has been an abject disaster offensively when he's been off the floor this season and without him, you never know what you're going to get. If Penn State's role players don't step up in his place, the Lions' postseason aspirations could die a painful death on their home floor in early February.