Thoughts before the Real Season…

December 28, 2009

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. That’s a phrase that’s been used frequently to describe politics in America (yay for the two-party system!), but it’s applicable to the Penn State men’s basketball team, as well. One thing we were all tired of hearing about come March of last year was PSU’s weak non-conference schedule. Yes, it kept PSU out of the Big Dance, but we learned our lesson, right? Apparently not. Penn State’s 2009-2010 SOS is actually lower than the pitiful 2008-2009 schedule. This year’s ‘improved’ slate is currently rated the 317th toughest schedule in the land, compared to last year’s 307th.

There’s still opportunities that the schedule ratings could improve. Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Davidson and UNC-Wilmington all look like they will make some noise in their respective conferences. But you can also basically stick a fork in Penn (who already fired their coach), American, UMBC, and Gardner-Webb. ┬áIn the end, though, does it really even matter? The bottom line is this young Penn State team is about to embark on an 18 game conference season. Their preparation was the 317th toughest schedule, and they did not fare well against it.

The NCAA tournament is a long ways away for this team. A road win against ACC bottom-feeder Virginia isn’t going to impress anyone. The Nits have set themselves up for another 11 win conference season if they want to get in. They were unable to do it last year, and it’s highly unlikely they don’t get it this year.

Have any questions heading into this season been answered? There are no consistent scoring options after Battle. As much as we all love Talor, it’s foolish to think he’s going to score 20 points in every Big Ten game. When he has a bad outing, which I’m sure will happen at least a few times, will PSU get run out of the gym or will they still be able to stay competitive? Time will tell.

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G-W/American Recaps

December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays everyone! I’m sorry your Christmas wasn’t as special as I’m sure you’ve been waiting for these recaps…

Penn State 104 Gardner-Webb 57

http://statsheet.com/tables/games/2009/12/gardner-webb-57-penn-state-104/team_stats.html?7947

This game wasn’t a contest, obviously. While PSU was resting all week and taking care of finals, G-W was out and about getting killed by Duke and James Madison. On the ESPNU broadcast, they claimed G-W was also fighting the flu bug (despite playing 15 total guys in the game?). They didn’t have the legs to play with the Nits as 4 of G-W’s starters played less than 20 minutes. The Bulldogs never stood a chance, and PSU jumped out to a 30-4 lead.

This was another annual pre-Christmas snoozer that meant nothing. Credit to the Lions, though, for coming out in front of 500 fans and taking care of business. If the Lions can take anything away from this game, its that they remembered how to shoot jumpers. They hit 12 of 26 3PA for 46%, while 4 players hit 2 or more. The bench got some run, as well, as no one logged over 30 minutes but 10 guys logged at least 10 minutes.

NCAA Basketball

Battle scored 21 points on 13 shots in 24 minutes. Tim Frazier had one of his best games with 18 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. Chris Babb went 5-6 from the field for 12 points (much better than his 35% FG%). Even Andrew Ott had a career-high 12 in 14 minutes (he went 8-9 from the foul line!). So pretty much everyone got in on the action as the Nittany Lions posted their best offensive efficiency on the season (1.4 PPP) and scored over 100 for the first time since December 2006 when they beat VMI 129-111.

Penn State 76 American 57

http://statsheet.com/tables/games/2009/12/american-university-57-penn-state-76/team_stats.html?49921

I thought PSU might struggle with this game, despite the inferior opponent. It was the last game before the players could go home for the first time in 6 months or so (the players apparently already had their bags packed and some literally went home immediately after the game), and they had just played a game on Saturday night. However, American actually had just lost a game 22 hours earlier to UMBC at home (a game that was postponed a day b/c of the Nor’easter last week). American was just as tired, if not moreso, than G-W two days before.

American came out strong as Vlad Moldoveanu scored 11 of American’s first 13 points. Vlad, a recently eligible George Mason transfer, scored 26 points in American’s upset of Depaul. The game was tight in the first half, until PSU opened up a comfortable 11 point lead with a minute left. But they let American creep back in it and the halftime score was 36-30.

Vlad and the rest of the Eagles were out of gas in the second half, as PSU busted the game open. The score was 66-38 with 7 minutes left (PSU going on a 30-8 run). For the second time in 3 days, the Lions were beating down on an over-matched opponent at home.

College Basketball

The stars of the game for the Lions were Chris Babb and Bill Edwards, who started the 2nd half and broke the game open. Frazier and Brooks, who had been struggling, were benched. Babb continued his hot shooting (5-7 from the field) for 13 points to go along with 6 boards. Edwards scored 12 points on 5 shots with 5 rebounds. Battle had 16 points on 9 shots and 7 assists. Andrew Jones had 9 points, but had just as many shots as turnovers.

All in all, neither of these games offered any stiff competition to get PSU ready for the Big Ten season. More to come on the Real Season before PSU’s game @ the Barn on Tuesday.


VT 66 PSU 64

December 14, 2009

It’s a busy time right now as a student at the end of the semester. I really hope you haven’t been waiting for a UMBC recap, because there’s just no point. PSU won the ugly, essentially meaningless game. The only highlight was Brooks’ being SC’s #1 play of the day. I didn’t get time to put up a VT preview, but coming into the game, I was worried about PSU’s ability to contain Jeff Allen and rebounding. I really thought this was a game PSU would win at home.

http://statsheet.com/tables/games/2009/12/virginia-tech-66-penn-state-64/team_stats.html?72201

In such a close game, every possession, missed shot, or mistake is magnified and can be pointed to as the difference in the game. These frustrating losses tend to allow fans to just focus on the negatives and not the positives, which then leads to arguments over which mistake was bigger and cost the team the game. It gets pretty pointless after a while, but here’s a quick list of what I believe were the most important factors to why PSU lost.

  • Shooting – 39.2% eFG% at home isn’t going to get it done.
  • Inconsistent Frontcourt – Brooks, thought to be the most consistent so far, didn’t show up.
  • Dumb fouls – Frazier, Jones, Ott, and Babb with crucial fouls down the stretch
  • Talor Battle missed 7 foul shots

Each of those four factors contributed significantly to the outcome of the game. If we could eliminate just one of those four factors, I bet PSU wins the game. But the bottom line is PSU played a comparable bottom-tier BCS school at home and lost, despite the fact that Talor Battle was unstoppable and scored a career-high 32 points with 0 turnovers. That is the most troubling issue to me because it doesn’t bode well at ALL for the Big Ten season (that is a mere 2 weeks away).
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Temple 45 PSU 42

December 8, 2009

http://statsheet.com/tables/games/2009/12/penn-state-42-temple-45/team_stats.html?13830

It’s been 3 days since this game and I still don’t what to think about it. Was it a bad loss? I have yet to come up with an answer to that question. I don’t even know where to start with this game…

Despite the painfully slow paced game (only 53 possessions), the first half flew by. The main reason for the short first half was because of a strange stretch that led to 9 consecutive minutes of gameplay. From the under-16 media TO (that happened at 15:17) until 6:43, there was just 1 stoppage in play (at 12:52 because of rebound that went out of bounds). This stretch might seem impossible to most, but it really just epitomized how the game was played. Neither team was aggressive on offense and the contest turned into a jumpshooting match.

NCAA Basketball Stats

PSU didn’t shoot too well, but they sure shot better than Temple. Turnovers were a big problem in such a low possession game, none bigger than Bill Edwards’ offensive foul with under 20 seconds left. Rebounding was also a big issue. Penn State played great defense for the second game in a row, but towards the end of the game, they just couldn’t finish off possessions by protecting the defensive glass. It was just a little irritating.

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Temple Preview

December 5, 2009

Arguably the toughest game of the Lions’ non-conference schedule is the road trip to the Liacouras Center to face the Temple Owls today. The game tips off at 4 PM and will not be on television. You’ll have to try to catch the game on the radio or…GO! Like myself, who will be traveling with 79 others students courtesy of another sweet deal by the Athletic Department (12 bucks for game ticket and 2 way bus ticket).

This game is going to be tougher than UVA. Temple has played some very good teams so far and has fared pretty well. They’re 5-2 with close losses to upstart St. John’s and Georgetown. They have beaten Siena and Va Tech. So their experience so far against much stronger competition has to be considered an advantage over PSU. However, Penn St is coming off a huge confidence-boosting (did you see that smile on Battle’s face?) win on the road against an ACC opponent, so we’ll see.

KenPom Profile

Temple really D’s it up. An 87 adjusted efficiency against the schedule they have played so far is very impressive. They control their defensive glass and have let their opponents’ make just 22% of their 3′s. Their opponents’ 40.6% eFG% is 9th best in the country. On offense, Temple must still be finding their way without Dionte Christmas. The only good thing Temple does on offense is take care of the ball. Senior guard Ryan Brooks is their leading scorer at 13.6 PPG, but he has gotten off to a slow start behind the arc. After hitting 41% of his 3′s last year, Brooks has only made 7 of 32 attempts this year. He scored 15 points against the Nittany Lions last year in Temple’s road win.

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PSU 69 Virginia 66

December 1, 2009

If you missed last night’s game, you can watch the highlights below:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHgaRgZCZgk

Talor Battle, with his fresh high-top fade, looked a lot like the Fresh Prince in last night’s second half. The Bubby smile returned for the first time this season, and it was just a joy to watch as always. Talor dropped a career-high 32 points, 28 of which came in the 2nd period when he put PSU (and the Big Ten) on his shoulders and took over the game. His performance brought on the first reference to the new blog title, so I was pretty happy about that. PSU survived a pretty wild last 3 minutes complete with banked threes, absurd officiating, and missed free throws, to hang on for a much needed 69-66 road victory. Penn St came up big in the Challenge for the third year in a row, which is a first in the 11 year history of the challenge. Go us.

NCAA Basketball Stats

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PSU 87 Sacred Heart 75

November 28, 2009

There’s no place like the Bryce Jordan Center for the Nittany Lions. After an atrocious trip to Charleston where Penn State was a frigid 38.1% eFG% from the field in 3 games, the Lions carved up Sacred Heart’s defense for 87 points in a 68 possession game. They shot a blistering 70.2% eFG% from the floor, getting whatever they wanted from inside. That’s right, PSU looked like they had a plan of attack on offense and they were dominant on the offensive end.

Tempo-free numbers:

Teams Poss Efficiency eFG% OReb% FTRate TO%
PSU 68.0 127.9 70.2% 10.5% 53.2% 16.2%
SH 68.0 110.3 60.2% 32.1% 10.2% 25.0%

Those rebounding numbers are awful, especially when you consider the level of competition. But when you take into account the fact that PSU only missed 17 shots all game, it’s not that big of a deal that they only pulled down 2 offensive rebounds. Plus, they put up their best offensive efficiency of the year so far. It was an encouraging performance for a team that looked so anemic on offense in Charleston. Keep in mind, though, Xavier put up 136.4 efficiency and 105 points against the Pioneers just 4 days earlier, so the competition was not good.

The defense was very disappointing, especially in the second half. Sacred Heart hit 8 of their first 11 threes of the second period. They didn’t really do anything special, either. They obviously were a POT team and shot a bunch of threes. There were a lot of ball screens and dribbled weaves that PSU strategized to switch off. But they couldn’t close on SH’s three shooters and they were burned repeatedly. DeChellis sounded frustrated on the postgame radio show. This game wouldn’t have been a contest if the defense showed up. SH did hit a couple of ridiculous shots, but it shouldn’t have become a 62-61 game in the 2nd half.

Player Bullets

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PSU 80 RMU 61

November 17, 2009

We know there are going to be nights where Talor Battle can’t score 20+ points. But PSU showed last night that they could score just fine without Talor being the one to put it through the hoop. After a sluggish first half, PSU came out and blew the game wide open with a 29-6 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

At halftime, I was concerned despite a one point lead (thanks to Battle’s buzzer-beating layup). The Colonials were clearly more active, outhustling the Lions on more than a few occasions. They collected 7 offensive rebounds in the first half (41.1% OReb%), including a monster tip jam from reserve Lijah Thompson. PSU was in a dogfight and there was no evidence that anything would change in the second half. Battle was frustrated and he had played the whole first half. So much for my hopes of him getting rest…

But the Lions came out much more focused and energetic in the second half – props to the coaching staff. Robert Morris didn’t know what hit them. Chris Babb was the main contributor in the run. After sitting with 2 fouls again for much of the first half, Babb spotted up for 4 threes in 5 minutes, 2 of them coming in transition. These streaks by Babb are what we know he is capable of. He can score a lot in a hurry, especially with his high release point that makes his jumpshot practically indefensible.

The hot start to the 2nd half really deflated the Colonials, and DeChellis was able to empty the bench. Battle was given 12 minutes of needed rest before the 3 game stretch in 4 days in South Carolina.

Some tempo-free analysis:

Teams Poss Efficiency eFG% OReb% FTRate TO%
PSU 64.0 125.0 63.0% 39.3% 33.3% 21.9%
RMU 64.0 95.3 40.3% 34.1% 27.4% 12.5%

Penn State was lights out again from the floor, hitting 28-54 from the field (12-26 from deep). The Lions were also much more active on the offensive glass, as I expected. The defensive rebounding improved in the second half to overcome the atrocious 41.1% RMU posted in the first half. The defense, though, continues to have the awesome ability of not being able to force turnovers. The Colonials were credited with 9 turnovers in the game and about 3 of them were completely unforced passes out of bounds.

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