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Franimal Planet: Iowa vs. Penn State Preview

Welcome to the intermission break. Grab some snacks for the second act.

Iowa (13-7) vs. Penn State (8-12)

Date: January 31, 2013
Time: 7:00 pm CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
Television: ESPNU
Line: Iowa -15

The Big Ten's sole under-.500 team comes to Carver Hawkeye tonight, in what should be a brief respite from an otherwise brutal Big Ten slate. The Nittany Lions would have been a pretty solid team this year had it not been for a season-ending injury to their best player, Tim Frazier, four games into the season. Since that injury, Penn State has struggled, suffering a 25-point losses to Akron and LaSalle and eight consecutive losses to open the Big Ten season. Ken Pomeroy gives Penn State no more than a 29 percent chance of winning any of its remaining 10 games. Things are not good.

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.

Sophomore guard D.J. Newbill has become Mr. Everything for Pat Chambers. He leads PSU with 15.5 points and 4.0 assists per game. He is second on the team with 5.9 rebounds per contest. He is the de facto point guard, shooting guard, and small forward on the offensive end. And, yet, he's a non-factor from the outside, relying solely on interior shots for scoring. Jermaine Marshall, a 6'4 junior guard, adds 15.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Guard Nick Colella, forward Ross Travis, and forward Sasa Borovnjak round out the Penn State starting five. They total 16.2 points per game. Penn State really only goes seven deep, with freshman forward Brandon Taylor and sophomore forward Jon Graham contributing off the bench. No other player averages more than seven minutes a game.

Stylistically, this game could not set up better for Iowa. Not only does Penn State struggle to score points and lack a consistent outside shooter, but their lack of depth makes them extremely susceptible to high tempo offenses and the full-court press (reduced slightly by their default three-guard lineup). While Penn State's defense has been decent, they are one of the nation's worst teams at putting opponents on the free throw line; Nittany Lion foes have taken a free throw for every two field goal attempts. Penn State is also undersized on the front line, with nobody in their rotation over 6'9. This sets up as Aaron White's favorite game ever.

Iowa's tempo has fallen slightly in Big Ten play, mostly because it's Big Ten play. Tonight's the night it should jump back up. If Iowa controls tempo, tires out Penn State's shallow roster, and forces exhausted forwards to foul its frontline players, the Hawkeyes should roll.