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Penn State vs. Minnesota Preview: Can Lions Prove That Palestra Win Was No Fluke?

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The Lions will look to deal a second straight defeat to a Minnesota team that was just upended by Michigan State.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Indiana Hoosiers 6:30 PM EST, Wednesday, Februrary 1 Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana) BTN 39 14-8, 4-5 Big Ten tba

Scouting the Opposition

Minnesota comes into State College with two Big Ten road wins under its belt from trips to Purdue and Northwestern. However, more recently, the Gophers were humbled on Wednesday night with a loss at Michigan State that was surprisingly lopsided. Although Richard Pitino’s squad has gotten surprisingly potent offensive contributions from slashers like Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer, the strength of this team is its defense, led by junior big man Reggie Lynch and his 3.1 blocks per game.

When you combine the swatting of Lynch with Jordan Murphy’s rebounding (his 8.3 boards per game lead the team) and a long perimeter defender in the 6’8” Coffey, you’ve got an intimidating unit that’s tough to put a dent in. All that wasn’t able to stop Michigan State from putting up 39 first-half points on the Gophers this week, but Penn State doesn’t have a specimen like Miles Bridges on its roster.

What to Watch For

With Lynch patrolling the paint, it will be interesting to see how the Lions perform on offense. They’re at their best when Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Josh Reaves are driving to the basket, but such efforts might not be so fruitful against a stout interior defense. On the other hand, we didn’t think Penn State would have much success in the paint against Nick Ward and the Spartans, either. Look for the Lions to get Lynch to step up and make the extra pass for some layup attempts. If they’re not able to, this one could turn into an ugly jump-shooting contest.

The only good thing about that would be that Minnesota isn’t so great at shooting the ball either. Point guard and leading scorer Nate Mason is a 40-percent shooter from deep, but he’s only knocked down two of his last 11 attempts from beyond the arc. Besides him, McBrayer and sixth man Akeem Springs are the only real three-point threats. Pat Chambers will have to decide whether to stick his best perimeter defender Reaves on Mason or one of the wings. I’d expect Reaves to be on Coffey for most of the game since the other Lions can’t match his combination of size and athleticism.

Prediction

If you base this decision on how both of these teams played in their recent games against Michigan State, it’s an easy win for Penn State. Predicting sports is rarely that simple, but I love the way Penn State performed on defense against the Spartans, and it’s going to be tough for Minnesota to get in a rhythm against Reaves, Mike Watkins, and company.

Penn State 71, Minnesota 65