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Penn State vs. Duke Preview: Lions Get a Taste of Elite Basketball in Connecticut

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The two programs have not met since 1970.

NCAA Basketball: Grand Canyon at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Duke Blue Devils
When: 12:30 pm Saturday, November 19
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT
TV: ESPN3
KenPom Rank: 1
Vegas Line: Duke -18

Even the most pessimistic Penn State Basketball fans thought the team had a chance to be 3-0 heading into this date with Duke at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut, but that has not come to pass. The good news is that Lions won their two most recent games thanks to some outstanding performances from their youngest players.

Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, and company will have to be at their very best just to give Penn State a fighting chance against one of the most star-studded programs in college basketball. Since it’s almost a certainty that the young Lions will fall to this experienced Duke team, this game will be more about the continuing growth of Pat Chambers’s padawans.

Scouting the Opposition

Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils toppled Marist and Grand Canyon before nearly upending Kansas without the help of their two most intriguing players. Considered two of the most talented freshmen in the country and future NBA lottery draft picks, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum have both sat out the first three games of the season due to injury. While Giles figures to be out for a while longer with a knee injury, Tatum could make his collegiate debut on Saturday afternoon.

If Tatum does show up in the lineup on Saturday, he’ll only further add to a potent Duke attack that is rated as the most efficient in the nation by KenPom. Even with top upperclassman Grayson Allen struggling from the field against Kansas, the Devils still managed 75 points on 49-percent shooting thanks to an outstanding performance from Luke Kennard. The sophomore point guard scored a very efficient 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting and added five rebounds and five assists to boot. He’s not quite as notorious as Allen yet, but Kennard will be well known throughout the country before this season is done.

As if the thought of Tatum, Allen, and Kennard all on the floor at the same time wasn’t enough to make this game seem impossible, another fantastic Duke freshman could debut against the Lions. This one is Marques Bolden, a center out of Texas who is nearly seven feet tall (and you can’t teach that). Coach Krzyzewski is not in any hurry to rush his injured stars back in time for a preseason tournament, but if Bolden is ready to go, it will only mean more problems for Penn State, particularly on the interior.

What to Watch for

Don’t watch the scoreboard, because this one could get ugly. Instead, look at how Penn State’s young players perform against the best talent in the country. Mike Watkins has looked like a shot-blocking monster against lesser competition, but can he block the shots of Amile Jefferson and Chase Jeter? Tony Carr has a pretty sexy assist-to-turnover ratio so far with 14 helpers and six giveaways so far. Can he maintain that efficiency against a defense that is ranked 12th in the country by KenPom? Will Lamar Stevens be able to draw fouls and continue to lead the Lions in scoring? These are all things that can make your experience fun if Penn State is trailing by 20 points in the second half (or the first half)

Prediction

Chambers continues to push the tempo even though that leads to many turnovers and fast break points for Duke. Duke 101, Penn State 80