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Return to Return to Rec: Penn State vs. Louisiana-Monroe Preview

Can Pat Chambers exorcise the Princeton demons for the second time in two days?

ULM could be without star center Majok Deng on Saturday afternoon.
ULM could be without star center Majok Deng on Saturday afternoon.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (4-3)
When: Saturday, 2:00 p.m. ET
Where: Rec Hall
TV: BTN
KenPom Rank: 153
KenPom Line: PSU -3

It's another game on two days rest for Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions finish up their most hectic portion of the non-conference schedule with another game in Rec Hall, this time against Louisiana-Monroe. Similar to Canisius, ULM is ranked right next to PSU in the KenPom rankings, and it's conceivable to think that the senior-laden Warhawks are capable of marching out of Penn State's adopted home court with a victory.

Scouting The Opposition

ULM goes about seven or eight players deep, which normally is not all that noteworthy in a single-game preview. But here's a bold prediction: coach Keith Richard will give at least 10 players significant minutes on Saturday. Why? I don't know if it's a scheduling snafu or what, but the Warhawks will ship off to Morgantown to play the team colloquially known as "Press Virginia" about 25 hours after their encounter with Penn State ends. Not to mention the fact that ULM played another Las Vegas non-bracketed game against Kent State on Thursday night, and Penn State's excuse for tired legs goes completely out the window.

Not to say that Monroe isn't capable of pulling the quote-unquote upset. They lost one major player from a team that finished 24-14 last season, and unlike Canisius they have a big man capable of scoring inside. Or at least they had one. Majok Deng, scorer of 18.7 points and collector of 7.3 boards per game this season, sustained a lower-leg injury at some point this week. Deng missed the Kent State game on Thursday night, which the Flashes won 73-62, and according to that story there is "no timetable for his return." Richard also missed the game due to illness (please please please save the Rolling Stones jokes).

What To Watch For

Without Deng, ULM will rely on freshman and second-leading scorer Travis Munnings. Like most of his teammates, Munnings has shot a high percentage from two-point range without getting to the line a ton. That was ULM's big weakness last season - the Warhawks has the worst free throw rate in college basketball last season. If they're anything like the nation's second worst in that 2015 category, Michigan, it means the Hawks shoot a ton of mid-range jumpers. Of course, that wasn't a barrier to success last season - they did win 24 games, after all - but that offensive style will be a welcome sight for a Penn State defense that often seems hellbent on committing fouls.

Prediction

I'm not ready to cast aside the ghosts of Princeton just yet (Ghosts of Princeton is my new band name, btw), but the Ouija board seems to be spelling out E A S Y  W I N. There's no official line out as of the writing of this post on Thursday night, so I won't ask the board if it's worth gambling on, but I feel comfortable in predicting another victory in Rec Hall in which Pat Chambers can bask again, especially if Josh Reaves takes it upon himself to do all the dirty work again. Put me down for Penn State 73, ULM 61.