|Who: Marshall Thundering Herd (3-4)|
|When: Tonight, 6:00 PM ET|
|Where: Huntington, West Virgina|
|TV: CBS Sports Network|
|KenPom Rank: 250|
|Vegas Line: PSU -5.5 (VegasInsider.com)|
|Enemy Blog: N/A|
Well, it wasn't pretty (few games have been this way), but Penn State now finds itself with a 7-1 record, which is far and away, the best start this program has had under Pat Chambers' tutelage. Tonight, they will attempt to take care of business on the road against a Marshall program currently finding itself mired into a four-game losing skid, with all of their losses coming in a blowout fashion.
Scouting The Opposition
Marshall is under new leadership this year, not just because Dan D'Antoni (yes, Mike D'Antoni's brother) is now the head coach, replacing Bill Herrion, but also because last year's leading scorer, Kareem Canty transferred to Auburn over the offseason, which has led to small forward Ryan Taylor taking over the distinction of the team's top scorer. Taylor currently averages nearly a double-double, at 16 points and nine rebounds per game, but also turns the ball over nearly three times a game, on average.
Furthermore, after winning their first three games of the season against stalwarts such as Jacksonville State (KenPom Rank: 292), Savannah State (Kenpom: 305), and West Virginia Tech (No KenPom rank, because they're not even a Division 1 program), the Thundering Herd are mired in a four-game losing skid. The Herd have been recent recipients of blowout defeats to the likes of Louisville, Morehead State, Cleveland State, and South Carolina. The latter three losses have occurred at home for Marshall, which should give solace to PSU fans that this isn't exactly the toughest of road contests that the Nittany Lions will face. If this team can jump on Marshall early, it could get ugly, fast.
So, what's been the culprit behind Marshall's struggles? Poor shooting (Marshall ranks 275th in Kenpom for Effective FG%), hanging onto the ball (230th in turnovers), poor three-point shooting (297th) and inability to create turnovers (345th in steals). Until they shore up those problems, look for the Herd to continued to be mired in their losing funk.
What To Watch For
Watch for whether Geno Thorpe is assigned to defend Taylor, given how crucial Geno was in shutting down Bucknell's Chris Hass, holding the Bison's top scorer scoreless for the first 30 minutes of the game. Also, look to see whether D.J. Newbill lights up the Herd from the opening tip, or if he does his usual letting other guys (i.e. Shep Garner, Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis, etc.) carry the scoring load in the first half before taking over, himself.
As stated earlier, Marshall is in the midst of a losing skid and probably doesn't have a whole lot of confidence at the moment. Whether PSU seizes upon such an opportunity and blows them out or has yet another sluggish first half and is thus, forced to pull off another one of its patented second half rallies, remains to be seen. I see too much D.J. Newbill, Shep Garner, Brandon Taylor, and company lighting up the scoreboard (not to mention, PSU taking advantage of Marshall's inability to protect the ball) and the Nittany Lions cruising to a 80-65 victory.