If there was any doubt that Penn State is in the NCAA Tournament, the Lions put that to rest with the season sweep of the state of Illinois. Penn State beat Northwestern for the second time in nine days, both in over time, and by nearly identical scores. Now, the Nittany Lions move on to face an Indiana team that is much more improved than the outlet that couldn’t stop anything Penn State was doing at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The biggest reason for Indiana’s resurgence is the emergence of freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino, but also the return of some of the injured players that were unavailable during the first meeting. After starting 1-4 in conference play, the Hoosiers won 11 of their last 15, sweeping 1-seed Purdue along the way. They avenged one of their losses against Maryland in the quarterfinal, and are likely salivating at the prospect of avenging another.
Scouting the Opposition
We know all about Trayce Jackson-Davis. He’s one of the most dominant players in the league, and has been for four seasons. Hood-Schifino, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, has been an incredible complement to Jackson-Davis’s play. He wasn’t as efficient last time these teams met, but since then, he’s made incredible progress leading to his Big Ten honors. Race Thompson wasn’t available for the last game with injury, but he’s back and playing great. The rest of the cast has also picked it up, and as a result, Indiana is one of the hottest teams in the conference.
What to Watch For
How much is left in the tank - This is the third game in as many days for the Lions, and the starters have logged a lot of minutes all season long, let alone in the tournament. Will Penn State run out of gas against a more rested team?
Can they do it again? - Penn State won the first time by burning the nets from beyond the arc —they made 18 threes in the game, tying the program record. Can they repeat the performance in the second game?
Penn State may have been the wake-up call Indiana needed back in January. After that debacle, the Hoosiers looked like a different team and won 11 of 15. Penn State is much improved too, but I don’t know that they can overcome the crowd, and a motivated, improved Indiana team. Indiana 73, Penn State 68.