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Penn State vs Michigan Preview: Lions Look To Bounce Back, Again

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The Nittany Lions nearly pulled the upset over Wisconsin on the road. Can they pull one at home over Michigan?

Michigan Wolverines guard Mike Smith (12) drives to the basket as Penn State Nittany Lions guard Sam Sessoms (3) defends during the first half at Crisler Center. Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State, once again, had a disastrous half of basketball as they faced the Wisconsin Badgers on the road —13 points, under 20 percent from the field, under 10 percent from three, and just about every thing you could possibly expect going wrong, actually going wrong. The second half redeemed some of the atrocious performance, but the Nittany Lions ultimate came just short, a last second three-point shot from Myles Dread rimming out with less than a second left.

Now, the Nittany Lions have to come back home and take on the suddenly surging Michigan Wolverines. They’ve done it in the past —Iowa, Rutgers, and Indiana can attest to it, and there’s no indication that they won’t be up to the task against the Wolverines on Tuesday.

Michigan themselves have seen a bit of a surge of late, winning four of their past five, with their two losses coming on the road to ranked teams. The latter of those, at No. 4 Purdue, was quite close throughout. Penn State may have its hands full as they attempt to stymie Michigan’s momentum.

Scouting the Opposition

The Wolverines’ cast is starting to round to form, but it all begins and ends with Hunter Dickinson. The sophomore center leads the team in points, rebounds, and efficiency from the field. If Dickinson is effective, the entire Michigan offense is effective. While Moussa Diabate, the former five-star recruit, is coming along nicely, he doesn’t yet impact the game as deeply as Dickinson does.

When Penn State isn’t focused on Dickinson, they have to look out for senior Eli Brooks. Brooks is second in points and first steals, and complements Brooks inside presence with a 37.8 percentage from beyond the arc (though that’s not highest on the team, that honor belongs to DeVante’ Jones’ 39 percent on the season on half as many shots). When Brooks and Dickinson are on, the Michigan offense is very hard to stop. When either is off, the Wolverines have trouble keeping up with teams.

What to Watch For

Michigan is slow, just like Penn State —they’re not as slow as the Lions, but at 261st, they’re not about to light up the scoreboard anytime soon. Likewise, Brooks, Jones and Caleb Houstan are all above 35% from three, but as a team they’re shooting just under at 34.9%. Penn State should be able to for them outside, where they haven’t been as successful, and make Dickinson less of a factor as a result.

In an ideal world, they simply force Dickinson into foul trouble. If they can do that, it’ll be up to Diabate and company to produce what Dickinson provides, and if that happens, Penn State is well positioned to take advantage.

Prediction

Penn State, like any other team, plays much better at home than they do on the road. This will be on full display once again in this contest. The late tip might mean less of a traveling crowd than normal, but the student should, hopefully, make up the difference. Likewise, Penn State makes up the difference at home. Penn State 68, Michigan 65.