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YAY HOOPS: Lions Battle Michigan in the Palestra

Two teams head to Philly looking to get back on the winning side of things

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fair to say that neither Penn State nor Michigan has started the 2024 portion of their basketball schedules in a way they would have wanted. Penn State is coming off a 92-61 loss at Michigan State last week, while the Wolverines have actually not won since December 16.

The conference implications are what matter most and that’s where the two teams both have 1-2 records in the B1G. The winner on Sunday jumps to the top half, while the loser is just a step above Rutgers in the league basement.

Meanwhile, this will mark the fourth time that Penn State has played a Big Ten conference game in the Palestra. The Lions are 2-1 in such games, but lost the last time they played in Philly against Purdue. Penn State and Michigan have played a regular season conference game on a neutral floor before with the Wolverines besting Penn State at Madison Square Garden a couple years ago.

Continue reading for more about today’s game, but also feel free to use this thread as the game’s open thread. A reminder of all those rules we typically give, which start with simply not being a jerk.

Scouting the Opposition

Michigan has already endured somewhat of a roller coaster season. Most notably, the status of Juwan Howard has been something worth watching. He missed some games earlier in the year after undergoing a heart procedure - former St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli stepped up with him out - and things haven’t been smooth since returning. The team has dropped three straight games and that includes a 73-71 home loss to Minnesota last week.

Michigan has a couple of forwards that could present problems for the Lions. Tarris Reed Jr. is a 6’10 forward who just recorded his first career double-double in the loss against Minnesota. He also scored a career-best 19 points in a win at Iowa back in December. Meanwhile, Tennessee transfer Olivier Nkamhoua is emerging as a solid pick-and-pop shooter.

What to Watch For

  • Shake It Off

There’s little more to say about the game in East Lansing - Penn State was completely outclassed and it was, by far, the worst 40 minutes of basketball that the Lions have played. Penn State has shown the ability to get over bad stretches of basketball quickly this year - most notably in the Ohio State conference win. Hopefully the sold-out Palestra crowd adds some juice to get the Lions off on the right foot.

  • Points

Fans have been critical of Penn State’s defensive effort at times this season - and the Lions have given up 80+ in every conference game thus far. Well, guess who is even worse defensively? That’s right, the Wolverines rank 14th (that’s last for one more season) in the Big Ten. You might want to go back and check out that over/under that was linked above and wager a few of your BSD bucks.

  • A win away from “home”

While Penn State will have the crowd advantage, road and neutral court games have not gone well for the Lions this year. Penn State is winless away from the friendly confines of the Bryce Jordan Center. If the Lions want any hope of a postseason trip this year, they’ll have to figure out ways to get the job done outside of Centre County. This game provides the perfect setting.

Prediction

College basketball is weird and its whiplash effect can mean you see completely different teams from game to game. I think we enjoy that today.

Penn State 78, Michigan 71