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Penn State vs Michigan Preview: Will the Lions Go Streaking in Ann Arbor?

Penn State can make it two Big Ten wins in a row when it heads to Ann Arbor for a clash with John Beilein's Wolverines.

NCAA Basketball: Central Arkansas at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Indiana Hoosiers 6:30 PM EST, Wednesday, Februrary 1 Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana) BTN 39 14-8, 4-5 Big Ten tba

Penn State's 60-47 win over Rutgers on New Year's Day may have come over an unspectacular opponent, but it was a result that was sorely needed after Pat Chambers's team disappointed in the Big Ten opener at home. Now that we're relatively sure that the Lions aren't the worst team in the Big Ten, it's time for the squad to make some moves towards that coveted postseason berth. The quest continues on Wednesday night in Ann Arbor as Penn State looks to upset the Michigan Wolverines and send them to an unexpected 0-2 start in conference play.

Scouting the Opposition

If you were hoping that Michigan would overlook the Lions in this matchup, you're probably going to be mistaken, because John Beilein's team just lost at Iowa in overtime and is still looking for its first Big Ten win of the season. If one good thing came out of that defeat for the Wolverines, it was a monster game from D.J. Wilson. The junior big man may be in his third year in the program, but he's playing major minutes for the first time in 2016-17, and he's probably going to see even more action in the future after exploding for 28 points and 14 rebounds against the Hawkeyes.

Wilson provides inside scoring and rebounding to a typical Beilein team that is all about knocking down jump shots. These Wolverines do a great job protecting the ball and getting off a quality shot on as many possessions as possible. Since they don't draw many fouls, it will be up to Josh Reaves and the other perimeter defenders to get after Michigan's guards and make them uncomfortable.

That will be easier said than done with veterans Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. leading the charge from the backcourt. While Irvin — who leads Michigan in scoring with 13.9 points per game — is a master of the mid-range game, Walton prefers to hang out around the arc and take aim with his 41-percent three-point shooting. The senior out of Detroit is also Michigan's leading assist man with 3.8 per game.

What to Watch For

Penn State's offense with its poor shooting and fast pace contrasts starkly with Beilein's more methodical approach, but if the Lions turn the ball over in transition, Michigan will have no problem hitting a three-point shot before the defense is set. It will be up to Tony Carr to keep turnovers to a minimum so that the Penn State can at least match its opponent in field goals attempted.

Getting those shots to drop is a different story, but if Carr and Lamar Stevens cut to the basket against Michigan's mediocre defense, the Lions might be able to create enough free throw situations to make up for the projected difference in field goal percentage. We could also see another big game from Payton Banks, since the Wolverines were just torched by Iowa from three-point range and are one of the worst teams in the country at defending that shot.

When Penn State is on defense, we’ll be looking for a healthier version of Mike Watkins (he was ill during the Rutgers game) to stay out of foul trouble and at least alter some shots when Michigan gets in the paint. However, the Wolverines have the benefit of forwards like Wilson and Moritz Wagner who can hit from beyond the arc and will force Penn State's defense to spread itself out.


Even with Banks going 5-for-10 from three-point range on Sunday, the Lions only shot 32 percent from beyond the arc as a team thanks to Shep Garner's ghastly performance. The junior has scored just 18 total points in his last three games and will need to get his act together if Penn State is going to maintain its surprisingly perfect road record this year. I have faith that Garner eventually pulls out of this slump, and he's going to need to do so in a major way for the Lions to snag the upset at Michigan.

Michigan 84, Penn State 77