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A game Iowa cannot afford to lose.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa (15-9, 4-7) at Penn State (8-15, 0-11)

Date: February 14, 2013
Time: 8:00 PM CT
Location: Bryce Jordan Center, State College
Television: ESPNU
Line: Iowa -8

We didn't get around to a Franimal Planet preview for this game (mea culpa), but honestly there isn't a lot to say about it that we haven't already said. Iowa just played Penn State two weeks ago and little has changed -- for either team. Well, maybe one thing has changed for Iowa -- based on Saturday's performance against Northwestern, Roy Devyn Marble looks better than he has since early December. Whatever was ailing Marble -- injuries, lack of confidence, a hellacious run of bad luck (or maybe some combination of all three) -- wasn't bothering him in that game; hopefully that was a sign of what we can expect from Marble the rest of the season.

In his preview two weeks ago, Pat said this:

Defensively, Penn State has been competent, ranking in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency. Oddly enough, Penn State is fourth nationally in defensive rebounding percentage and blocks a decent number of shots. The biggest issue for Penn State has been on offense. The Nittany Lions are 316th nationally in effective field goal percentage, 335th in three point shooting, and 331st in assist/field goal ratio. Just two active Nittany Lions are averaging more than seven points per game. Just one is averaging more than 2.5 assists per game.

The sad reality is that they're even worse in most of those categories now. They're down to 330th in the nation in effective field goal percentage, 341st in three point shooting, and 333rd in assist/field goal ratio. This team may have a lot of heart or moxie or spunk or spirit or whatever other intangible quality you want to list, but it's not really that shocking that they're 0-11 in Big Ten play (particularly in this Big Ten). Sans Tim Frazier, they're not a good basketball team. They are, in fact, a really, really bad basketball team.

And yet Iowa cannot just roll onto the court and expect to have their way with them. If games were fought on spreadsheets rather than courts, maybe they could. But Penn State -- this same crappy Penn State team -- gave us some nervous moments in the game in Iowa City a few weeks ago and I have no doubt they can (and will) do the same here. This is one of their last remaining halfway-decent shots at a win (two of their next three games are against Michigan, so that should be fun), so I'm sure they're going to give maximum effort to steal a win. Even though Penn State is a bad team, Iowa still needs to play hard and play smart and avoid doing things that give Penn State opportunities to spring an upset -- sloppy defending, too many turnovers, missed free throws, etc.

Even with nine losses on the docket, Iowa has so far managed to avoid any truly awful losses (although that Virginia Tech one is certainly taking on a more pungent aroma with every passing week). A loss to Penn State would be really, really bad. It would almost certainly move Iowa's NCAA Tournament hopes from "slim, but possible" to "requires a miracle in the Big Ten Tournament." This is a game that Iowa simply cannot afford to lose.

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