Penn State took a four-game winning streak into the Breslin Center on Tuesday, and came away victorious. This is the first win on the road for the Nittany Lions since they defeated the Spartans in 2009. The win not only checked another item on the to do list for Pat Chambers and company, it solidified Penn State’s claim to a top four finish in the Big Ten, and maybe even more.
Here’s what the staff had to say before the game.
Q: Penn State finds themselves climbing up the rankings again after another good week. By the time our readers see this they would have already played Michigan State. What will be the storyline come Wednesday morning?
Rowen: How high can this team climb? Yes, Chris asked this question earlier in the week, but an upset in East Lansing will have many around the league and country asking the same question.
Tim: The storyline will be that Penn State went into East Lansing and played Michigan State tough on their home turf, but ultimately came up short. The loss will do absolutely nothing to help nor hurt the Nittany Lions’ NCAA Tournament chances. Minnesota will loom large as a “revenge” game at home for PSU, and is seen as the more realistic win opportunity.
Eli: The same as it’s been all season long. This team is different, and they’ll find away to do what no other Big Ten team has done yet: keep the game within 10 points. I’m not bold enough to predict an outright win, but man would it be amazing to see. And here’s the thing, it wouldn’t be that unrealistic if it happened. This team has been on a mission of “firsts” this season, and this would simply be another first for them.
Q: In more general Big Ten news, how many losses do you think the champion(s) will have this season?
Tim: Without having looked at the top teams’ remaining schedules: I’m going to say at least five, likely six losses for the eventual regular season conference champ. The B1G has been an absolute meat grinder this year, especially for road teams.
Eli: Seven. Every team in the top four right now has at least two more games against other top-four teams, and and at least four more road games. There will be losses to be had. What that means for the NCAA tournament? You’re probably looking at a bunch of 5-seeds in the Elite 8.
Q: Can Lamar Stevens realistically eclipse Talor Battle’s record? If so, how many games will it take?
Rowen: Yes, and I think he’ll do it in 13.
Tim: Lamar (as of the time of time writing this) currently needs 207 points to surpass Battle. PSU has at the very least, 12 games remaining. This includes 10 regular season games, one Big Ten Tournament game, and one postseason tournament game (likely March Madness). Lamar will need to average over 17.2 points per game to eclipse Battle if PSU only plays 12 more games. Given that Lamar is currently averaging 16.5 ppg, that’s going to be a tall task for him to do so.
Now, if PSU goes on a run in either the Big Ten or postseason tourneys, then it makes it more doable. 13 games would require averaging 15.9 ppg, 14 games would require 14.8 ppg, and 15 games would require 13.8 ppg. Lamar’s current scoring average is higher than any of those aforementioned required averages, so it depends on whether PSU wins a game or two in either tournament.
Eli: It’s possible, but he can’t have an off night the rest of the way. He’ll need either 1) for Penn State to play at least 15 more games, through any combination of Big Ten Tournament or NCAA Tournament games, or to average close to 20 points a game in the remaining conference games. Here’s to hoping!
Q: If Penn State were to go into “February mode,” like they have the past few seasons, what would that mean for this team?
Rowen: It would put them into contention for conference champion, and require a transition to playing with a target on their back through March. Even during this four-game winning streak Penn State hasn’t played at an exceptionally high level, and they’re capable of more. If they put it all together like they have in late-season stretches of prior years the sky’s the limit.
Tim: February mode to me, would involve PSU going at least 6-3, which would lock up an NCAA bid, given that they would already have 11 conference wins before March (I believe if PSU needs nine B1G wins to solidify a bid). It would give them a shot at finishing 13-7 in conference play (home game with Michigan State and Northwestern on the road are both winnable) and with an additional win or two in the B1G tourney, could see them boost themselves to a 4-seed in the Big Dance, which would be the highest seed in program history.
Eli: The past few seasons have seen Penn State completely turn their seasons around in February. But the last two seasons are not the only times the Nittany Lions have seemed like a different team in February. Who can forget the win against No. 4 Michigan on February 27th, 2013? What about the win against No. 22 Ohio State, also on February 27th, 2014? The three game win streak that saw them reach the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals in 2015? You get the point. This team plays differently in February, and for the first time since Chambers arrived on campus, they’re not playing catch-up. I can’t wait to see it.
Q: What are we looking for in the coming week?
Rowen: A competitive game against Michigan State, and a win over Minnesota. Individually I’d like to see Dread continue to hit from deep, and Jamari stay involved on offense. How the team adjusts to Carr and Oturu in Round 2 will be interesting to watch with several pending matchups against talented guard-big pairs.
Tim: Absolutely need to continue to hold serve at the BJC and beat Minnesota. I’m not expecting a win in at Michigan State, but oh boy, if they somehow pull it out...the next edition of Bracketology is gonna be fun!
Eli: Revenge. Also I want to see how much of a ****** ***** Daniel Oturu will be when his team is getting their collective heads shoved all they way up their asses.
Penn State continues the climb against Minnesota on Saturday, February 8th, at 4 PM on BTN.