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Penn State vs. Michigan Preview: Lions Hurting Heading into the Garden

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Concrete jungle wet dream tom-aaaaato

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Michigan Wolverines (16-5, 6-2)
When: Saturday, Noon ET
Where: Madison Square Garden
TV: BTN
KenPom Rank: 30
Vegas Line: UM -10
Enemy Blogs: mgoblogMaize 'n Brew

Pat Chambers has made a point to play as many non-road games away from the Bryce Jordan Center as possible in his five-year tenure, and Saturday's "home" game at Madison Square Garden is, if nothing else, a great experience for his players.

A win at the World's Most Famous Arena might even get them back onto the NIT bubble, but right now that's a tall task for a team that could be shorthanded. According to 247Sports' Jeff Rice, second-leading scorer and primary point guard Shep Garner missed practice this week after suffering an ankle injury in Columbus on Monday night and will be a game-time decision. Payton Banks, he of 10.7 points per game, is dealing with a back injury. And with Josh Reaves still working his way back from mononucleosis, Penn State could be without three players who saw significant time in a 23-point drubbing in Ann Arbor earlier this month. In layman's terms: gulp.

Scouting The Opposition

What makes the Wolverines so effective and what killed Penn State in that matchup is simple: Michigan can shoot the dang ball. They exploded for 14-25 shooting beyond the arc at Crisler Arena, led by Zak Irvin's 4-6 showing. His emergence since that game has adequately made up for the absence of star senior guard Caris LeVert, who has yet to return from an injury he suffered at Illinois.

Duncan Robinson has "cooled off" since the start of conference play, shooting "just" 40% from three-point range in 2016. Chambers elected to have Banks face guard the D-III transfer in that first fixture, and that strategy worked in the sense that everyone else but Robinson had an outstanding shooting night. Don't expect to see that again.

What To Watch For

If Garner can't play, is there any perimeter threat left for Penn State? Devin Foster will be asked to take over lead guard duties - maybe for the entire 40 minutes - and he's at his best attacking the rim. Davis Zemgulis will have his chance to show off the skills that earned him his scholarship, though he's connected on just one triple in his last five games. Can Isaiah Washington finally take his chance? He'll have the opportunity without Garner or Reaves in front of him, but the fact that he's a mere 4-24 from deep won't inspire much confidence. If that 10-point spread is looking a little low right now, you might be on to something.

Prediction

The hockey game should be fun. Michigan 75, Penn State 59.