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Penn State vs Grand Canyon Preview: Lions Get Another Stiff One Before The Stiffest One

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The Nittany Lions face another sneaky good opponent in Grand Canyon, who could put more than just a scare on Penn State.

NCAA Basketball: Albany at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Grand Canyon Antelopes
When: 7:00pm Tuesday, November 15
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPN3
KenPom Rank: 183
Vegas Line: None

When the schedule was released late in the summer, everyone agreed that this was a definite step up in competition from the previous two years. What most of may have overlooked, however, is how much of a step up this was. Penn State’s first three opponents last season were VMI (No. 308 Kenpom rank at season’s end), DePaul (182), and Duquesne (156). That’s an average ranking of 215, anchored by terribly horrible VMI.

This season, the Lions faced 164 Albany, 175 Duquesne, and 183 Grand Canyon to open the season (all in five days, to boot). Grand Canyon is a team that not only went 27-7 last season (with a win at San Diego State), but is a team that returns almost everyone. This will be an incredible test to see how quickly your beloved Nittany Lions can grow.

Scouting the Opposition

As mentioned above, The Antelopes return a good portion of its starting lineup in Joshua Brown (41.7 eFG% against Duke), Gerard Martin (66.7), and Keonta Vernon (41.7). Darion Clark (33.3), a transfer from USC, should help fill the void left by Grandy Glaze, one of Grand Canyon’s most productive players last season. Shaq Carr, however, spent the most time on the floor of any player against Duke, while having a 47.1 eFG% against the Blue Devils.

Don’t let the score in that game fool you. Grand Canyon played a pretty good game, they just happened to be severely overmatched against the best team in the nation.

What to Watch For

Which Penn State defense will show up? If it’s the relentless unit that turned it up, and kept it up, against Duquesne, the Lions should have a good day. If, however, the defense that let Albany do almost anything it wanted on Friday shows up, this Grand Canyon team that loves to shoot will have a field day.

Again, the numbers against Duke are a bit skewed due to opponent, but a 44.4 eFG%, a propensity to shoot threes, and an adj. tempo not unlike Penn State’s, could lead to ugly things quickly if the Lions don’t stay on top of things.

The silver lining here is Grand Canyon’s 50% FT rate against Duke, which given The Lion’s own propensity to foul and foul often, means they may catch a break in this area.

Prediction

The team’s youth gives me a bit of pause trying to predict this game, but Kenpom seems to think Penn State will win. I’m going with Kenpon. Penn State 84, Grand Canyon 83.