It’s the first weekend of conference play, as the Penn State Nittany Lions travel to Iowa City to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. The last time they visited, both Peter Jok and Dale Jones started, which makes it seem like forever ago. Tim Aydin joined us from Black Shoe Diaries to answer some of our questions.
1. Much like Iowa, Penn State has seemed to do pretty well against lower-level competition but struggled in the two games against better competition. What have those teams been able to do or was the talent gap too big for Penn State to overcome?
With the loss to Texas A&M, it was more of a matter of the Aggies just being the more talented bunch and PSU giving it all they had, but it just wasn't enough. The NC State loss was less excusable, considering the Wolfpack were shorthanded and the PSU's defense looked like utter garbage for a good chunk of the game.
2. Tony Carr is clearly the best player on this team but who else needs to have a strong game for Penn State to come away with a victory?
Two other names that immediately stick around are Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins. Stevens is the second-leading scorer and rebounder on the team and has the ability to play at the 3 or 4 position. Watkins is the team's leading rebounder and shot-blocker, having swatted 23 shots in just seven games (that's over 3 blocks per game, for you non-math majors reading this) but has also made himself into a reliable scorer in the post. Those two are going to need to have big nights once again on the road in Iowa City. Josh Reaves' defensive tenacity (Reaves is the team leader in steals, averaging nearly 3 of them per game) and Shep Garner catching fire will also make of break PSU's chances.
3. Penn State rates better defensively than offensively, according to KenPom, which seems to be in line with Pat Chambers's philosophy at Penn State. Their turnover percentage is particularly good this year. Is there anything we should expect Penn State to throw out which might be unique on that side of the floor?
Perhaps they'll throw in a little 1-3-1 zone to mix things up (as opposed to just going straight man-to-man or a 2-3 zone), or if they find themselves trailing in the second half, I'd look for the 3/4 press to to get deployed, as that helped spark a rally attempt late against NC State.
4. Speaking of Chambers, he's in his 7th year at Penn State with not much to show for it. What is the "State of the Program?"
The only reason he is still the head basketball coach at Penn State is because of the starters on the team that he and his staff helped to recruit. This is hands-down, the most talented roster Pat Chambers has ever fielded at PSU and the expectation at this point is bare minimum NIT, but preferably NCAA's. Anything less than NIT, and it's a pretty good bet that Sandy Barbour (PSU's Athletic Director) will find herself having to conduct a coaching search come March.
5. Lastly, who ya got and why?
I'm sure Jordan Bohannon will catch fire from downtown, just like any three-point shooter does when playing PSU. I'm also sure that the depth is a little stronger at Iowa than it is at PSU. I'll go ahead and roll with picking PSU in a very close one, I think the Big Three (Carr, Stevens, and Watkins) all step up and it's just enough for the Nittany Lions to get by.
Thanks Tim. We hope your team loses by a million. You can pester him on the Twitter about the game (or why white is a silly color to have every fan wear) if you’re feeling like it at @happyhourvalley.