Minnesota Preview

December 29, 2009
  • WHO: Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-3)
  • WHERE: Williams Arena aka The Barn
  • WHEN: 9:00 PM
  • TV: ESPN2
  • LINE: Minnesota by 12
  • Enemy Blog: From the Barn
  • Pomeroy Profile

Conference play starts tonight, and the Lions open up with no cakewalk. The Golden Gophers play defense, something many opponents in the OOC schedule could not. Will the Nittany Lions be able to handle it?

Minnesota’s only real competition came in the 76 Classic and the Big Ten/ACC challenge. They did beat Butler, but they went 1-3 in those games. However, all of those games were on the road. They lost close games to Miami FL, Texas A&M, and Portland (when they were the story of college basketball).

The Golden Gophers practically returned their whole team from last year (89% returning minutes). Defensive stud Damian Johnson and offensive scorer Lawrence Westbrook return as the senior leaders. Hoffarber, Nolen, Iverson, and Sampson are back as well. The Gophers are deep (11 guys average between 9-25 MPG), tall (21st tallest team in the country), and experienced. Penn State is none of those things. Oh, boy.

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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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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 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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PSU 70 Penn 55

November 15, 2009

You gotta love season openers. For many of us diehards, we had to wait a long 7 and a half months. Football tried to fill the void, but failed horribly. A terrible schedule/conference provided undeserved victories, which raised unrealistic expectations for this team, and it just led to disappointment, confusion, and an awkward ‘emptiness’ feeling. This might be the most unsatisfying 10-2 season in the history of football (assuming they win in EL next week, which is a complete toss-up IMO).

It didn’t help that this has been by far the most optimistic I’ve been for a Penn State basketball season since the Crispin era. With the positive end to last season, along with the uncertainty of how this team is going to be this year, I was just a little excited to get the season started on Friday. I was so excited to see basketball that I completely forgot how awful these early games are. It’s not a Penn State thing. It’s evidenced throughout college basketball. It takes a week or two for teams to get into the flow of the season and start playing competent basketball. It really makes you wonder why the hell the Selection Committee puts as much stock in these games in March. It’s all about the body of work, don’t you know.

So I would have to say the Penn game wasn’t too revealing to how PSU is going to play this year. Or maybe it was a significant sign that this is how we’re gonna be and I’m just in denial.

We all knew Talor Battle is going to produce the most, but if he’s counted on to do this much for PSU to win a game, it’s going to be a long season. Talor had a phenomenal game – 27 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists. He consistently broke Zach Rosen’s ankles with some incredible hesitation steps and some ridiculous craftiness in the lane. Talor could always score in the paint, but the way he did Friday made me think he did really improve over the summer. He did whatever he want against the Quakers and it was a joy to watch. I particularly enjoyed his 1 on 5 drive that put PSU up 61-49, capping off a mini 7-1 run that put the game away with 4 minutes to go.

It was a choppy game, because the officiating crew couldn’t swallow their whistles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many offensive fouls called in one game. It wasn’t unfair or one-sided, it just really kept the game from getting into any sort of flow. Three of PSU starters picked up 2 fouls in the 1st half – Drew, DJ, and Babb. That allowed for DeChellis to play 11 guys at least 5 minutes each in the first half. It was nice to see the new guys get so much time, but there was little cohesion among the ever-changing lineups. Battle was the only constant during the game.

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Tim Frazier is still an athletic freak

July 3, 2009

Tiny-mini showing off for some campers. Poor Brooks looks so average in this video when you see what Tim’s pulling off. Who knew we were bringing in another guard who was more athletic than Talor Battle? They’re going to be fun to watch. (And FWIW, the second summer session began last week, so all the incoming freshmen are on campus with the rest of the team except Talor).


Reactions to Edwards

May 7, 2009

Well, it’s nice to see that even with PSU’s best basketball season ever, the recruiting coverage is still non-existant. Out of left field came Bill Edwards’ commitment to play for Penn State yesterday. He decided to uphold the PSU tradition of being the completely unknown, spring signing this program has couped the last 5 years. However, those guys we landed have generally been unknown JuCos (David Jackson I, Travis Parker, Sky King, Pringle). Bill was a 2009 target for a while and now he’ll be on campus in two months with 4 years of eligibility.

Wait, what? 2009? I thought you said we were finished with 2009 recruiting? Yeah, that’s what everybody thought. But we’re the Tweener Factory. So when a 6’6″ guy with no true position wants to play basketball here, Ed DeChellis brings him. I know we’ve been looking at Bill for a long time, but I thought it wasn’t meant to be when Sasa Borovnjak committed. However, DeChellis thought it was more important to keep to our roots and bring in undersized forwards (or perhaps in Bill’s case, an oversized PG). While trying to follow Bill’s career at Middletown HS in Ohio, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that he was the kind of kid DeChellis has had success with. Zakee Wadood. Travis Parker. Geary Claxton. Jamelle Cornley. Edwards’ profile is very much like those guys, which makes me very excited.

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Report Card: Talor Battle

April 9, 2009

*Borrowing an idea from Dylan at UMHoops, I’ll be constructing player report cards for all 7 returning scholarship players who saw the floor in the 2008-2009 season over the next few weeks.

2008-2009 Statistics

ORtg Usage %Min PPG RPG APG eFG% 3PT%
109.9 27.0% 92.6 16.7 5.3 5.0 49.5% 33.9%

The Good

  • Confidence – Talor has a rare mentality that only the great basketball players athletes possess. He simply refuses to let past failures affect how he plays his game. He has shown this confidence in so many games, but no instance was more prevalent than the first round game in the NIT against George Mason. After going 0-7 from in the field in the second half and having failed on the previous 2 possessions to take the lead, Talor Battle still wanted the ball down 3 with less than 5 seconds to go. That’s some serious confidence, my friends. The guy doesn’t shy away from any challenges.

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