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Penn State Basketball Preview: VCU

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One Virginia opponent down, one to go!

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

After a sluggish first half against VMI in its opening game of the year, the Penn State men’s basketball team gathered itself to race by the Keydets to the tune of a 21-point victory.

The competition only ramps up now, however, as Jim Ferry’s men take on VCU in their second game of the season, hopefully giving us the first real glimpse at how good the team is and could be.

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Mike Rhoades is in his fourth season at the helm of the Rams and has led them to one NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018. They currently sit at 2-1 on the year with solid wins over Utah State and Memphis surrounding a 78-66 loss to No, 15 West Virginia.

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION

VCU has looked solid, if unspectacular, in three games so far. The Rams should, however, be a good measuring pole for the Nittany Lions right now.

They come in averaging just a hair under 74 points per game and like to get up and down the floor. The offense had been led primarily by guard Nah’Shon Hyland who averages 16 points per game, though he’s thus far shooting under 30 percent from deep.

Forward Vince WIlliams Jr. and guard KeShawn Curry both averaging double figures scoring, with WIlliams lighting it up early from deep, shooting 46.2 percent from beyond the arc,

Gone are the days of Shaka Smart’s havoc defense. The Rams are giving up 71 points per game and can be exploited defensively with good guard play. It will be important for Jamari Wheeler to get into the lane and play provider as well as for Penn State shooters to knock down open looks, which they should have plenty of in the contest.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Can the Nittany Lions get off to a quicker start? Against the Keydets, Penn State trailed for much of the first half and was down double-digits just 10 minutes into the ball game. If Jim Ferry’s team comes out slow against VCU, the game could well be over by half. If the Nittany Lions come out with some urgency, we should be in for a tight game from wire to wire.

PREDICTION

When Penn State turned it on in the second half over the weekend, I was actually surprised at how fluid the offense looked. Jamari Wheeler progressing as a viable 3-point shooter could be huge and the Nittany Lions have some fun wing options with Myles Dread and Izaiah Brockington. For now though, I think this one is a bridge too far. Until proven otherwise, I’ll pick the program with some pedigree.

VCU 77, Penn State 69