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Penn State Basketball Roundtable: Legitimate Big Ten Title Contenders

Penn State is in sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, a game back from first-place Maryland.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions won at Mackey Arena and the Breslin Center this week, two placed it’s hadn’t won in at least 10 years. This is a first for Pat Chambers’ crew, and it makes the Lions the only team with wins at Michigan State, Michigan, and Purdue in the same season in Big Ten play. Here’s what the staff had to say about this week.

Q: Statistically, Purdue was the toughest game remaining, at a 28.7% chance of winning per ESPN’s BPI. Speak.

Clay: That’s silly. Illinois is a very good basketball team. [Ed. Note: This was submitted before we knew of Ayo Dosunmu’s potential injury]

Rowen: I’m blown away. No Myreon Jones and Lamar Stevens on the bench for 11 minutes, and they take a 12-point lead into halftime. Pat Chambers’ teams have found their stride in February of past years, and it appears this team is no different in that regard. The supporting cast is stepping up on offense and the team is playing great defense.

Marty: Penn State is 1 game out of first place in the Big Ten. The first place team is Maryland. Penn State curb stomped Maryland earlier this season. Penn State is the best team in the Big Ten.

Chris: It would be great for the Lions to run the table but as long as they hit 11 wins, it’s going to be hard to complain. Considering where some people thought the team would be right now, just a month ago when it was 2-4 in conference, an NCAA Tournament appearance should not be qualified as good or bad. It will be good no matter what happens. We want the team to be feeling well and have momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Tim: I had this game pegged as a loss, given how Purdue had seemingly been waxing everyone at Mackey Arena and the fact that Myreon Jones would be sitting this one out. Always happy to be wrong on predictions like these. While I highly doubt the team wins out their remaining seven regular season games, I am not making this mistake any longer.

Lando: I have to be honest, I thought Penn State was heading for a loss at Mackey, but now this team is all but guaranteed at least 23 victories. What a world.

Eli: I mean, every game is its own individual battle. Winning at Iowa and Indiana won’t be easy. Michigan State won’t be in a funk for the rest of the season. Northwestern has actually held double-digit leads before dropping the past what, four games? Getting this one is great for the Big Ten title hopes, but they should take no one lightly, and I don’t think they will.

Q: Penn State has the most road wins in the Big Ten so far, as well as the only winning record on the road. Speak.

Clay: We are through the looking glass.

Rowen: Amazing given how their first road outing in conference play went. The defense has been consistently excellent, and the team has improved significantly in rebounding the ball since their loss at Minnesota. Combine that with Lamar Stevens and a legion of 3-point shooters and you have a team that can win anywhere.

Marty: Again, Penn State is the best team in the Big Ten.

Chris: Sometimes you play a team when it is hot, other times you play a team when they are struggling. I think the Lions got hot a month ago and just happen to be winning games everywhere they play, whether it’s at home or away. It’s hard to know whether the team is just now reaching its potential, as past Pat Chambers’ teams have done in February, or if they are simply getting the breaks, the ball is going in the hoop. Time will tell. Maybe they really are this good, and will only lose another game or two. If not, it has been a fun ride.

Tim: Just like in the previous couple of seasons, the team is playing their best basketball in February and seems to be peaking at the right time. More importantly though, the fact they have been so successful on the road in a meat-grinder of a conference where road wins have been at an absolute premium this year, bodes very well come NCAA Tournament time.

It’s crazy how I’ve reached a point where I’ve gone from simply being thrilled to make the Big Dance to now expecting the team to win at least a game, to feeling somewhat let down if they don’t make a deep run (Sweet 16 or better). I guess this is what having a historically successful season does to your expectations.

Lando: I mean...what can you say? This team thrives on people disrespecting them, and road games in the Big Ten tend to bring that environment,.

Eli: February mode is upon us, and my body is more than ready.

Q: Who’s your player of the week?

Clay: I know you can’t just ignore Purdue, but it has to be Lamar, right? That performance against the Gophers was nothing short of immense.

Rowen: Lamar Stevens is the easy choice. He was phenomenal at Michigan State especially down the stretch and just as good if not better against Minnesota. He’s looking much more likely to become the all-time leading scorer for Penn State after his best week of the year. Oh and he won multiple player of the week nods in the Big Ten and nationally.

Marty: Mike Watkins. He had yet another double-double against the Boilermakers on Tuesday night. He was also 9/12 from the field while controlling the boards and dominating inside.

Chris: Myreon Jones. His unselfish decision to allow his teammates to contribute, and spread their wings, has made the team stronger moving forward. He got the flu just in time to get some quality playing time for Seth Lundy.

Tim: Lamar Stevens would be the easy answer here, especially with his 33 points against Minnesota. However, I’m gonna roll with Seth Lundy. Nailing six treys on the road at Mackey Arena of all places was pure fire, and he seems to finally be comfortable playing against Big Ten competition. It gives me hope that things won’t tail off too much next season with Lamar gone.

Lando: Seth Lundy, no doubt. Kid is sensational. Six triples against Purdue is just part of the story.

Eli: It’s the easy answer, but it’s Lamar Stevens. He did just enough against Purdue, everything against Minnesota, and exactly what the team needed against Michigan State. That’s what you want to see from a leader.

Q: The last two games Penn State has played without Myreon Jones. The last two games Penn State has eclipsed 80. Speak.

Clay: Welcome back, Mr. Dread. Oh, and hello there, Seth Lundy jumper.

Rowen: Myles Dread has broken out of his funk with Izaiah Brockington following suit. Winning and their success on defense seems to have boosted Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar’s confidence as well and that forces opposing teams to guard everyone. With Myreon Jones out all 8 of the remaining rotation have stepped up and the result is a team playing with great rhythm.

Marty: For a third time, Penn State is the best team in the Big Ten. But in all honesty, this speaks to the depth of this team. In past years Penn State never could have won a single game, let alone two, in B1G play without a player as important as Jones. Kudos to Coach Chambers and his staff for cultivating said depth and to the players for stepping up.

Chris: The first game Lamar Stevens put Myreon’s missing average on his back, scoring a career-high. The second game Seth Lundy scored 18, roughly what the team gets from Jones on a nightly basis.

Tim: I don’t see how anyone can question whether this is the deepest, most talented PSU hoops team in modern history at this juncture. In any other season, losing Jones would’ve meant losing to Minnesota and Purdue. However, with guys like Myles Dread, Izaiah Brockington, and Curtis Jones ready to step up and pick up the slack, as well as Lundy finding his rhythm, this team has enough firepower to withstand a loss like this for the time being.

Obviously, we’re going to need Myreon back if PSU is going to reach their full potential, but thankfully, it sounds like the should be back sooner rather than later. Probably no need to play him against Northwestern if he’s still not feeling 100 percent (or close to it), but definitely would like to have to him back by Illinois next Tuesday.

Lando: Who made a deal with Mephisto?

Eli: It goes to show what slowly building a team from scratch looks like. This team started from one guy (Tim Frazier) then two (Frazier, D.J. Newbill), then three (Newbill, Shep Garner, Brandon Taylor), and kept going until now, where there’s an actual full team of talented players that can all compete in one of the best leagues in the country.

Q: What are we looking for against Northwestern?

Clay: Prepare for total domination! (domination). Congratulations to anyone who gets this extreeeeeeemely deep cut.

Rowen: Despite their success in the last two games I’m looking for the return of Myreon Jones. It should be a good game to bring him back slowly if needed to get back in the flow, and they’ll need him against Illinois. Aside from that, a comfortable win that we all know they’re capable of.

Marty: Pain. Lots and lots of pain for the Wildcats.

Chris: Put the best effort out there. Finish the game. There is a good chance Penn State will be up by double-digits by halftime. If they sleepwalk through the first half, Northwestern could become dangerous the later it gets.

Tim: Bury them early and don’t let them jump out to a double digit lead the way they did at Rutgers. They will be coming in with absolutely nothing to lose and looking to ding PSU’s resume with an upset win. I think PSU’s superior depth wins out in the end, but I’d like to see a comfortable beat down on Saturday.

Lando: A dominant win. Establish your style of play and take it to them.

Eli: I want, no, I need, for Northwestern’s will to live to end by the time they land in State College.

Penn State faces Northwestern at Noon on BTN this Saturday, February 15th.