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Penn State vs Fordham Preview: Lions Look To Slow High-Scoring Rams

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Game #2 for the Lions tips off today at the BJC at 5:00pm against a more formidable opponent than Morgan State.

Jon Severe turned down a Pitt basketball offer to go to Fordham. He deserves our respect.
Jon Severe turned down a Pitt basketball offer to go to Fordham. He deserves our respect.
Mike Lawrie
Who: Fordham Rams (1-0)
When: Today, 5:00pm
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 154
Vegas Line: PSU -12.5, KenPom -10 (85%)
Enemy Blog: NYC Buckets

Fresh off their opening night win against Morgan State just two short days ago, the Lions return to action against the Fordham Rams out of the Atlantic-10. While Fordham has been a perennial doormat in the Atlantic-10 recently, things are looking up in the Bronx this season. Here's why the Nittany Lions will have to bring a much better performance today if they want to avoid another early season upset.

Scouting The Opposition

Fordham enters their fifth season under head coach, Tom Pecora, the long-time former Hofstra head coach. It's been a very rough ride in the Bronx for Pecora, who has gone just 35-85 in his tenure at the school. They have consistently finished last in the Atlantic-10 the last four years and Pecora's conference record stands at just 9-55.

So why is Pecora still employed and Fordham not an RPI killer? Because the guy has really broke through the last few years in recruiting the New York City metro. He landed his biggest recruit after the 2013 season in Jon Severe, who spurned Rutgers and Pittsburgh to stay home. Severe followed through by averaging 17.3 PPG for the Rams last season as true freshman in the Atlantic-10.

A few weeks before Severe's commitment, another hotly sought after forward, Eric Paschall, verballed early in the 2014 prospect's recruitment. He already had a West Virginia offer at the time of his commitment and would have garnered major attention in the spring and summer AAU circuits if he was not committed. Paschall proved the hype was real with a 31-point and 10-rebound debut Friday night against NJIT, a 94-77 season-opening win for the Rams (Ed. Note - commenter greenmanRD correctly noted that Fordham defeated D2 NYIT and not D1 NJIT. My apologies - EG).

Today will be the first time Fordham sees their two local stars play in the same game. Severe was suspended for Friday's opener because of a violation of team rules, but he will suit up today for the first time this season. Throw in experienced guards like junior Mandell Thomas (who has the potential to drop 25 points and 5 treys like he did against VCU last year) and senior Bryan Smith (who dropped 28 points against St. Joe's last year) and a highly efficient inside threat in junior Ryan Rhoomes (66.7% eFG% and 134.7 ORtg!), and Pecora has the makings of an explosive offense. No surprise they put up 94 points Friday night without Severe.

What To Watch For

For Penn State, they will obviously look to improve on taking care of the basketball after turning the ball over 18 times against Morgan State (28.2% TO%). They were also a bit shaky on the defensive glass against the Bears. These two points of emphasis surely were covered by Chambers in yesterday's practice, but the defense as a whole will be tested by the Rams' potent attack.

Today's game is a big opportunity for Ross Travis and Geno Thorpe. Travis will be matched up against the highly-regarded Paschall for the Rams, and his defense could go a long way to thwarting the Rams' attack. While we may be critical of Travis' offensive game, he needs to provide the stellar defense and rebounding that earns him minutes. Thorpe will also be matched up against fellow sophomore Severe.

I will be keeping an eye on the Lions shooting percentages today. A lot of points were left on the floor Friday night by the whole team, as even DJ Newbill missed 3 or 4 freebies for his standards. This has been a recurring trait for Chambers' teams in State College. They've always struggled shooting the ball, but they continue to miss open looks or good shots. Are we in for another frustrating year in this department or can Friday night be chalked up as first game jitters? Penn State's frontcourt needs to bounce back in a big way against the smaller Rams.

It will also be interesting to see how the rest of the rotation continues to evolve. Julian Moore played eight huge first half minutes on Friday, will he get more run today? Will we see Devin Foster and Payton Banks? It's too early to write those guys out of the rotation. And what kind of encore will starting point guard Shep Garner have today after his 14-point outburst in his first collegiate game?

Prediction

It could be a too-close-for-comfort win today in the Bryce Jordan Center. The scoring punch of Jon Severe and Eric Paschall in addition to Fordham's supporting cast could put a ton of pressure on PSU's defense. Hard to tell just how improved Fordham is with it being so early in the season and they still have a ton of youth on the roster, but there is high major talent on this team.  If Penn State performs like they did on Friday night, it will be a much tougher struggle to pull out the win.

I'll take the Lions in a 72-64 win. Too much DJ Newbill in the end.

Side-Note

Today's contest is the second part of a Nittany Lion basketball double-header. The Lady Lions host Albany at 2:00pm and the men's game will immediately follow. What this means is for those attending today's game, your ticket seats don't matter. It will be general admission seating and your tickets are good for both games. So feel free to sit as close to Pat Chambers' bench as you can get to.