What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Next up: noted Penn State hoopyball enthusiast Tim (aka, Happy Hour Valley).
1) This has obviously been a miserable year for Penn State hoops, probably even tougher than you ever dreamed it could be. Still, have there been some positives out of what you've seen from PSU this year? What gives you hope for the future?
We knew this was likely to be a rough year when we saw the team needing overtime to beat a depleted Providence team in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off back in November (which took me not one, but TWO beers to get through - please note that I only watched the last 10 minutes of regulation and OT), and that was before Tim Frazier went down with his infamous ACL injury the following game against Akron. Finding the positives requires some forensic scouting work, but I'd say DJ Newbill's aggressiveness and Ross Travis' rebounding (7.1 rpg) are the two most glaring ones, IMHO. Jon Graham has his flash-in-the-pan moments as well when it comes to playing in the post, and Brandon Taylor has had his promising moments as a frosh forward in the B1G.
What gives me hope for next year? Obviously, Frazier returning which not only gives PSU back its leading scorer, assists, steals maker, and floor general, but more importantly allows DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall to return to their natural positions as shooting guards. Couple that with a pretty decent recruiting class coming in (including a pair of guards in Geno Thorpe and Graham Woodward) along with Pitt transfer John Johnson becoming eligible after this upcoming Fall semester, and we'll finally have some depth at the most critical position for a Pat Chambers-coached team (guard). If any of our post players show significant improvement as well, then the NCAA bubble could perhaps be the ceiling. Really though, I'll be happy if we're even modestly competitive next season.
2) It hasn't been that long since we played (just two weeks!), so has anything changed about Penn State in that time? Is there anything Iowa fans should be wary about heading into this game?
Nothing has changed. The same snuff-film quality shooting performances haven't skipped a beat (38.1% from the floor, 26.7% from 3 point range in B1G play), our post players continue to get dominated by every other team's post players, and the performance in general is just absolutely painful to watch. It's come to the point where I don't even schedule my time anymore around watching the games, and I've constantly joked from my earliest blogging days about being one of the 50 hardcore Penn State basketball fans on the planet. Really, the only thing Iowa needs to be wary of is getting complacent and thinking they can sleepwalk their way to a win. Granted, that strategy seemed to work for Purdue when they visited us the other week.
3) Speaking of that game, it was pretty weird. Iowa had big leads on a few different occasions, but Penn State was able to hack those leads down several times, too. Does anything about the way that game played out give you increased hope for the rematch on Thursday?
As horrible as the team has been this B1G season, the one thing you can say is that they sure as hell don't throw in the towel. This is a testament to Pat Chambers and the ATTITUDE mentality he preaches to his players, day in and day out. It's what's allowed them to sneak their way back into games against overmatched opponents that seemed to be cruising to victory (see: the Wisconsin game from January 3rd). However, the fact that they can't completely get over the hump doesn't give me any increased hope.
4) Not counting Tim Frazier, which Penn State player (past or present) would you ch-ch-ch-choose to send a Valentine this year?
Pete Lisicky. He was the first PSU hoops player I ever man-crushed on back in middle school, and he inspired me to work on becoming a three-point shooting threat during my intramural basketball glory days (very helpful when you're a short, skinny, kid) and I would always request his number (32) whenever possible on my uniforms. His name alone reminds me of the glory days of the Bryce Jordan Center in 1996 when PSU was fielding Top 25 squads and bringing in near-capacity crowds. I know a lot of PSU fans would choose Joe Crispin or Talor Battle, and I did my share of man-crushing with them as well, but Pete Lisicky was and always will be my first.
5) Not to pour too much more salt on this particular open wound, but 0-11is pretty ominous. How concerned are you about going 0-18? (For the record, my confidence in PSU picking up a win has waned a bit since the last time Iowa played PSU. If PSU can't steal this game against us, I think it comes down to the road game against Northwestern.)
I'd say my concern level is currently that of Tweek in the South Park episode where his parents warn him about the dangers of child abduction. Fortunately for us (and a huge bummer for them), Northwestern suddenly looks more viable for a potential win after losing Swopshire for the rest of the season. That's the only realistic possibility of a win I see left besides pulling off a shocker against your team tomorrow night (as of the time this is being typed out). Granted, PSU has shown an uncanny ability to steal a win from Illinois over the last several years, and it would be even more fitting given how the Illini shocked Indiana recently.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
I'd like to believe in Valentine's Day magic and that Penn State will be that perpetually single person that finally finds love in the form of a B1G win...After some serious teasing for most of the game though, the Hawkeyes should pull away and win by 9 or 10 points.
Thanks for being a good sport, Tim. You can follow Tim on Twitter at @HappyHourValley. The Iowa-Penn State game is on Thursday, February 14 at 8pm CT, with television coverage from ESPNU.