It was never going to be perfect for the Nittany Lions, but a game they led by 19 at one point shouldn’t have been a game they lost. This was reminiscent of all those times in the past season where the Lions would jump to a quick lead, sometimes a quick big lead, like the one they had against Seton Hall on Sunday, only to see it evaporate once they took their foot off the gas.
Now they get to contend with the Virginia Tech Hokies, a team that, despite not being projected to be at the top of the ACC rankings, has proven that their own road to a rebuild is going a lot more smoothly than expect. Or maybe they just upset a team that one time. Only time will tell. Today, though, this looks like a monumental task for a team that may still be feeling the sting of letting one slip away.
Scouting the Opposition
Virginia Tech is slooooooooow. They’re 331st in Adjusted Tempo according to Kenpom. Contrast that with Penn State’s tempo, which ranks 61st in the country, and you have a nice contrasts of styles at play — for reference, Wisconsin is 348th in adjusted tempo. What the Hokies lack that Wisconsin has, however, is a pristine shot from outside. At 33.7% for the team, they’re about a percentage point behind the Nittany Lions in three point shooting, which could prove pivotal given their height. While only two of their biggest contributors are 6-foot-7 or above (Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts), reserves Cordell Pemsl (Iowa transfer) and David N’Guessan are tall tall, both towering everyone in Penn State’s roster except John Harrar, at 6-foot-9.
What to Watch For
Until the Nittany Lions prove otherwise, teams will pound the ball inside and eat the Lions’ lunch there, using that advantage for key shots outside. Penn State could be at an advantage here by making the Hokies run, but if they can’t put any sort of fight inside it’ll be another long night, one where they will need a cold shooting day from the home team in order to stay in it.
On the other hand, if they are able to take advantage of their defensive affinity and jump to a lead, this is not a team as equipped to come back as Seton Hall was. That of course assumes Penn State doesn’t take their foot off the gas and start playing sloppy ball after they get ahead.
I would love to see a bounce back in this game, but that number 15 ranking is giving me pause. I’ll play it safe and say Virginia Tech 68, Penn State 65.