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Penn State vs Pittsburgh Preview: A Neutral Site Meeting for the In-State Rivals

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The Nittany Lions and Panthers will play for the first time since a 78-69 Pitt win 2013

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Pittsburgh Panthers
When: 2:30 PM ET Saturday, December 10
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
TV: CBS Sports Network
KenPom Rank: 57
Vegas Line: Pitt -5


The Nittany Lions will look to rebound (figuratively and literally) after a humbling loss at home to George Mason

Penn State is coming off a disappointing performance against George Mason, in a game they were expected to win. Tomorrow’s game against Pitt is now even more important, as the team could use a quality non-conference win to help mitigate their not-so-great losses to George Mason and Albany.

Something that bodes well for the Lions, and no so well for the organizers of the Never Forget Tribute Classic, is that Pittsburgh also comes into the game following a pair of lackluster performances. After dropping a game to cross-town rival Duquesne (which was explained away due a suspension to Jamel Artis), the Panthers struggled to take care of Buffalo at home on Thursday. Granted, after Penn State’s loss to George Mason, Buffalo is now two spots above them at 114 in kenpom.

Scouting the Opposition

Seniors Jamel Artis and Michael Young are the heart of this Pittsburgh team under their new head coach, Kevin Stallings. It hasn’t been a perfect start to his tenure, with the aforementioned loss to Duquesne (for the first time in 15 years) following a road win against a ranked Maryland team. The absence of Artis was a major factor in that loss, and there’s no reason to expect him to miss the game against Penn State.

Currently, Young leads the ACC in ppg with 22.3, and Artis isn’t far behind at #4 with 19.3. The Panthers did have 6 players reach double-digits in scoring in their latest game against Buffalo, but at times they are over-reliant on the production from Artis and Young.

Pittsburgh is also prone to scoring droughts due to cold-stretches from beyond the arc, but they have been much better at overcoming these than Penn State. They’re adjusted offensive efficiency currently ranks at #35. They have a serious advantage in experience over the Nittany Lions, but Chambers will have to try and slow them down offensively.

What to Watch For

Chambers’ squad was unable to create havoc on defense against George Mason. They struggled to force turnovers, and as a result, did not get anything going in transition to help boost the offensive output. While they are certainly a better team than Mason, Pitt’s biggest weakness may be at the point guard position. Penn State will need to make the Panthers uncomfortable when bringing the ball up the court, and force more turnovers than they did in their last outing. This is the best recipe for success, as limiting the impact of senior forwards Jamel Artis and Michael Young could determine the outcome of the game.

Prediction

As much as I want to be optimistic about this game, I just don’t see Watkins and Moore being able to shut down Artis and Young without getting into foul trouble. If that’s the case, the team will have to rely on Lamar Stevens, Payton Banks, and Davis Zemgulis to defend a talented front-court unit for the Panthers.

Pitt 84, Penn State 70