With Penn State basketball, few things are guarantees in life. Go back to last season, when the Nittany Lions closed the regular season against a dreadful Northwestern team, and proceeded to get run out of that gym. Even this season, several games that Penn State should have won, both on paper and on the field, led to heartbreaking losses when the buzzer beat.
There’s Seton Hall, where the Nittany Lions had an eight-point lead in the closing minutes. There’s Ohio State, where the Lions had a four point lead in the closing minutes. There’s the most recent game against Michigan State, where Penn State also had a four-point lead before ultimately losing.
There are several examples of the Nittany Lions simply being unable to hold their end of the bargain, which makes this game against Nebraska fall squarely in the “they should win, but who knows what will happen” category. The Cornhuskers showed signs of life, having their own “lead in the closing seconds but lost in overtime” game against a red-hot Illinois squad, so there’s evidence that Nebraska can compete when all falls into place. There’s also the game where they gave Michigan State everything they could handle, but ultimately lost by 10.
All in all, this should be a relatively stress-free game for a Nittany Lions squad that plays much better at home than they do on the road, but when it comes to Penn State basketball, you just can’t rule out any possibility.
Scouting The Opposition
2021 Nebraska is effectively a new team. The only players to see action for the Huskers last season, either due to sitting out or not being with the Huskers prior to this season, are Yvan Ouedraogo and Thorir Thorbjarnarson. Everyone else is seeing their first action in a Nebraska uniform this season. This would explain why the Cornhuskers are a dreadful this season as they were last. Without that continuity, the team is basically trying to learn how to play with each other all over again. Add the stop and go of a pandemic season, and no wonder why it may feel like Nebraska has not made any progress in Fred Hoiberg’s second season at the helm.
Aside from that, Teddy Allen Delano Banton are the guys to watch for the Huskers, with the latter being a 6-foot-9 guard. Trey McGowens is by far the best outside shooter on the team, at 40.5% from beyond the arc. The next best option is the aforementioned Allen, who hovers at 35%. Take care of those two, and the rest should be straightforward.
What to Watch For
Nebraska has length, but isn’t tall. No one who sees the floor with any regularity is taller than 6-foot-9, but then again, they have a number of guards who will tower over the likes of Sam Sessoms and Jamari Wheeler.
The Cornhuskers like to play with pace too, so this should be a game the Nittany Lions feel comfortable with. In fact, Nebraska is first in the Big Ten in adjusted tempo, so this is really the kind of game the Lions want to play. The question is, though, will they make their shots? If the answer is no, prepare for a world of hurt.
Penn State has burned me enough to know that I should take every pseudo guarantee with a grain of salt. But still, this is Nebraska we’re talking about. Penn State 82, Nebraska 70.