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Penn State vs. Akron Preview: Too Early to Call This a Trap Game?

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In what is technically the final game of Penn State's Charleston Classic experience, the Nittany Lions might need some home cookin' to beat one of the nation's top mid-major programs.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Akron Zips
When: 8:00 p.m.
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPN3.com
KenPom Rank: 148
Vegas Line: PSU -6.5
Enemy Blog: Hustle Belt

Maybe "trap game" isn't the right descriptor for this game as it relates to Penn State. Akron did fare two places better than the Nittany Lions at the Charleston Classic proper, after all. The fact remains, however, that Akron is a MAC team - a good MAC team, mind you - but a MAC team nonetheless. Penn State is a Big Ten team with postseason aspirations. And this feels like a trap game.

Scouting The Opposition

Keith Dambrot's Zips have been one of the more consistently good programs in the country for the past decade. In each of the last nine seasons, Akron has won at least 21 games. After a 2-1 showing in Charleston featuring a 20-point win over Southern Cal and a consolation game win over South Caroline, it's probably safe to say they'll add to the streak this year.

The most impressive aspect of those two wins is that they did it without their best player, Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell, who is currently serving a suspension under accusations he assaulted Sina King, a player on Akron's women's basketball team. The Zips' play hasn't suffered much though, as a couple of underclassmen have picked up the slack. Freshman Noah Robotham (pronounced "robot-ham," hopefully) leads the team in scoring at 12.0 points per game and has shot 53% from three to begin his college career. Robotham was a three-star recruit out of Las Vegas whose only high-major offer came from Boston College, so it looks like Dambrot has found another diamond in the rough.

Kwan Cheatham, himself a sophomore, could present the biggest problem for the Nittany Lions in their biggest area of weakness right now. The 6-9 forward is averaging 2.0 blocks to go along with his 10.3 points per contest and will give Penn State's frontcourt a test they'll need to pass in order to pull out a win.

As a team, Akron is highly proficient in two areas: forcing turnovers and blocking shots. Ruh roh.

What To Watch For

Can D.J. Newbill possibly keep this up? He averaged an astounding 27.7 points per game in Charleston and played almost every available minute. Akron has one of the better defensive units Penn State will face this season, and you couldn't blame D.J. for a dip in production at this point, his fourth game in six days. Then again, I'm not one to doubt him, and I don't have to - the Big Ten already did that when they named Shannon Scott and Frank Kaminsky co-players of the week.

Prediction

Much like the USC game, there's no reason to stray from predicting a close, sloppy game. Akron is a very good defensive team and Penn State is giving the ball away like crazy of late, but the home court should provide the Lions with a boost. It'll be another frustrating watch but I expect PSU to pull through in the end, 62-60.