For the past three seasons, the Nittany Lions had avoided what had become somewhat of an identity for the program: The dreaded 0-6 start in conference play. Pat Chambers’ teams have started 0-6 in Big Ten play four of his eight seasons as the Nittany Lion head coach (foreshadowing!!), each instance more excruciating than the next.
Like a dreaded calculus operation, Penn State is seemingly infinitely close, but never approaches the promised land. This is exemplified in the Lions’ last five losses, only one of which one could confidently say Penn State had no chance in from early in the game. If there’s a sliver of hope, it’s that three of these games were on the road against the top of the Big Ten, which allows for some breathing room in the coming weeks, were this mathematical graph of the sine variety. But before that, though, the Nittany Lions have to face one more tough opponent: The No. 6 Michigan State Spartans.
Scouting the opposition
It’s Michigan State. Take a wild guess at what we’re about to see tonight. If you want to get into specifics on what kind of bloodbath you should expect, Nick Ward and Cassius Wisnton anchor the front- and backcourt for the Spartans respectively, each averaging 16.7 and 18 points per game. Joshua Langford and Xavier Tillman are next two guys in the usage chart, with Tillman’s 123.4 Offensive rating being second only to Winston’s. “Lucky” for Penn State, Langford is out for today’s game, so the Spartans will have to use some other 5-star guy instead. Woohoo!
Oh, and Matt McQuaid is still around. He’ll provide a three-pointer here and there when Penn State can least afford it.
What to watch for
Josh Reaves - The guy that showed up against Nebraska is what the Nittany Lions have been needing all along. In fact, the 6-point loss is the closest Penn State has ever been at Pinnacle Bank Arena since the place opened up. If this is the Reaves we get moving forward, games will be interesting.
Can they keep it close? - While the above holds true, Michigan and Michigan State are currently on a collision course for sole possession of the Big Ten crown this season. Right now, a moral victory is all we can hope for.
The crowd - Sunday afternoon game on CBS against a top 10 team. Will anyone show up?
The astute in you noticed that Penn State hasn’t started 0-6 four times yet, in reference to the first paragraph. Today will be the fourth one. Michigan State 105, Penn State 55.