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The Penn State Basketball Guide to Beating Michigan

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An open letter to Jim Boeheim:


Dear Jim,

After demolishing Florida 79-59 in the Elite Eight, the Michigan Wolverines might be playing the best basketball in the country heading into this weekend's Final Four. Your team's famous zone defense will be tasked with stopping a dynamic offense (78.8 ppg in the tournament) that has propelled the only remaining Big Ten squad past the entire South region.

Sure, John Beilein's team has suffered defeat seven times along the course of the season, but when figuring out a gameplan to stop the likes of Trey Burke and Mitch McGary, you'll need the perfect strategy. And amongst Michigan's losses this year, one loss stands out: Penn State 84, Michigan 78. Surely, it took the coaching genius of one Patrick Chambers to lift his bunch of fighters to victory over the (foreshadowing alert!) then fourth-ranked team in the country.

Well, Mr. Boeheim, you're in luck. I happen to be one of the few to have witnessed said upset, and I also happened to take detailed notes in order to figure out exactly what Pat Chambers planned in order to pull off the upset of the season. I'm ready to share my findings with you, on the condition that you take a dive in the National Title game (I got Louisville in at +100 before the Sweet Sixteen). Here you go:

Step 1: Lose a buttload of games before you play Michigan.

I realize this may prove difficult considering the Final Four is just a day away, and there probably aren't too many teams around that could play you, let alone beat you, but trust me on this--you'll need to build a sense of desperation among your players. Penn State lost 14 straight before beating Michigan. I'm talking Tom Hanks in "Castaway" levels of desperation.

You're already in Atlanta, so hopefully you were able to play 40 minutes of pickup against the Hawks. If you haven't, maybe head over to the famous Run 'N' Shoot gym on Metropolitan Pkwy. This guy on Yelp says "Run N Shoot is 'KNOWN' as a place that respects people of all skill levels trying to improve." 'All skill levels' must mean some former pros/And 1 mixtape vets, so you should be able to get enough run to lose around 8-9 games. Hopefully that'll be enough to get at least one of your guys to break down emotionally. Remember: this is what you want.

Step 2: Make sure half the building is empty.

Penn State's home floor, the Bryce Jordan Center, has become notorious for its vast emptiness and lacking atmosphere. I realize you don't have total control over how many people the Georgia Dome lets in, so you might have to go to extreme lengths to keep the place empty. Summon the weather gods, perhaps.

Why, you ask, would you want an empty building? Not unlike Dementors, Michigan's offensive powers are fed by human souls, so the fewer warm bodies who watch you play, the better chance you'll have of catching them at their weakest. Penn State had just under 9,000 people in attendance during the upset. The Georgia Dome can host upwards of 70,000, so you'll have some work to do.

Step 3: Play your best walk-on for 37 minutes.

Nick Colella played this role extremely well for Penn State, scoring 9 points in his 37 minutes. I'm looking over your roster and I'm not seeing any walk-ons who are used to this kind of workload, unfortunately, so maybe bring an extra Wegman's sub from home for Russ DeRemer. Make it a Danny's.

Step 4: Have your student section ream out Trey Burke for decommitting from Penn State.

This is VITAL.

Step 5: Shoot the bejeezus out of the three.

Making baskets that are worth the most points is usually a good thing, and it could come in handy here. The Lions went 10-20 from beyond the arc against Michigan, by far their best shooting performance of the season. The Wolverines are good at a lot of things a lot of the time, but defense isn't always one of them.

Step 6: Be down by a ton of points in the second half. Trust me.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but this is all about the element of surprise. PSU was down 66-51 with around ten minutes to go and came back to win by six. This is probably the only way to beat Michigan, and since your team is a heck of a lot better than Penn State, you could probably get away with a 30-35 point deficit late in the game. At worst, your team loses all hope, doesn't make a comeback and is super motivated for next year. A win/win, really.

So good luck, coach. Just know that should you fail to heed my advice and fall to Michigan, we'll have transitive bragging rights over you for quite some time.

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