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Penn State vs. Duquesne Preview - Small Dukes Squad Presents Opportunity for Nittany Lion Bigs

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Happy duqane Day!

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Duquesne Dukes (3-2)
When: Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: BTN
KenPom Rank: 152
Vegas Line: PSU -8

Penn State is 8-1 for the first time since 2001, though even Pat Chambers will admit there are plenty of improvements to be made if this team is going to compete for the postseason. There are just four games left to prepare for the rigors of the B1G, and it starts with tonight's matchup against a Duquesne team that's hungry for their first win over Penn State since 2012, Chambers' first year at the helm.

Scouting The Opposition

On this week's podcast, the Dukes were glossed over and this was labeled as a win by our panel (ok fine, just me). That was unfair, because Duquesne has been shooting the heck out of the ball and Penn State has had their struggles in defending beyond the arc this season. Jim Ferry's boys are 11th in the country in three-point shooting, connecting on 43% of their long-range shots. Drake transfer Micah Mason lives behind the arc - he's taken 28 shots on the year and 26 of them have been threes - and the 53% shooter will have designs on a big night after sitting out last year's encounter at Consol Energy Center with a broken hand.

Junior college transfer Jordan Stevens and freshman TySean Powell have also yet to face Penn State, obviously. Stevens has the ability to either push Duquesne towards victory or send them crashing towards defeat - he's taking nearly 40% of available shots when he's on the floor. For comparison's sake, D.J. Newbill is taking 30% of his available shots. A volume scorer, Stevens has yet to match the 27-point performance (in just 28 minutes) he had against Abilene Christian (KenPom: 340). Powell is having an outstanding first year for such an unheralded recruit. His 247 Sports page is non-existent, yet he's second on the team in scoring at 13.2 ppg.

What To Watch For

The Dukes have plenty of offensive firepower, especially on the wings, but there's a silver lining for Penn State - Duquesne is exceptionally short. Their tallest player is 6-11, but that player, Darius Lewis, plays just 17.5% of available minutes. Instead, Ferry chooses to play small ball, with 6-7 L.G. Gill getting the lion's share of minutes at the five. Surprisingly, it hasn't been a huge drain on their paint defense, though it's entirely possible that the Dukes are overcompensating and leaving three-point shooters open, as opponents are shooting 40% from three against Duquesne. Can Donovon Jack impose himself on a vertically deficient Duquesne team, much like he did last year (9 points, 12 boards, 6 blocks)? If he's ever going to emerge from his season-long slump, today's the day.

Prediction

Duquesne is still an unknown quantity, having fallen to the likes of Future Big Ten Powerhouse NJIT and Pitt while beating nobody of consequence. KenPom seems to like them, but whether or not they're to be considered a "quality" opponent remains to be seen. None of this should stop this Penn State team from playing down to its competition, however, and as such another nail biter is probably in the cards. The Nittany Lions should take this one, however uncomfortably, 80-76.