RISE AND FIRE! Gus Johnson will be gracing the BJC with his presence tonight. 9 PM Tipoff on the Big Ten Network. Gus Johnson alone is reason to get excited for this game. Forget about the Talor Battle vs Manny Harris showdown.
But anyways, BIG game tonight for both teams. PSU is looking to take advantage of their brief ‘easy’ stretch of their Big Ten schedule. UM has put themselves in a pretty big hole so far this conference season. Yes, they are 3-3 so far in the season, just like PSU, but they’ve already dropped two home contests. With only 5 home games left on their season, UM is looking to make for their home blunders with some big road victories against the Penn States of the conference. But there’s a problem with that – John Beilein has won just 4 road games in his short UM stint (@ NW @ Iowa last season, @ Oakland @ Indiana this year). UM has yet to prove anything on the road. They lost to a comparable Maryland team, and they needed a redonkulous comeback against pitiful Indiana.
That certainly plays in PSU’s favor, who has won 7 of their last 8 conference games at home. While the atmosphere at the BJC usually isn’t something one would call a ‘home-court advantage’, this PSU team protects the homecourt. But hold on just a second, it’s our THON bball game tonight. Expect a large turnout of students to show – since their ticket sales are donated straight to THON.
So how does Michigan play basketball? They play some 1-3-1 on D, they shoot up a whole lot of threes, and they take care of the basketball. Don’t expect to see the many wasted possessions – both rank #1 and 2 in the Big Ten in TO% as a team. In fact, PSU is 4th in the country at taking care of the ball, while UM is 10th. Neither team is particularly strong at forcing opponent turnovers, either. Both teams are short, but PSU holds a significant rebounding advantage. UM (48% Reb% on the season) is a good opponent for PSU to get back to work on the glass after being outrebounded the last 2 games.
Talor Battle vs Manny Harris, arguably the two best players in the conference (they were former teammates at one point if you read some articles at the end of this post). They put on quite a show last year at the BJC as Harris put up 29 in defeat, while Bubby amassed 28 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. That’s really all I remember from last year’s late season affair. That and there was terrible officiating. Beilein got T’d up by Sid Rodeheffer, which led to a game long verbal warfare between the two. Both players have great matchups because I have no idea who’s going to guard Manny Harris for PSU and vice-versa. I’m expecting a lot of zone from both teams to attempt to keep these two guys from penetrating all game. DeShawn Sims vs Jamelle Cornley is going to be another great matchup.
For PSU to win, I believe our big 3 will have to outscore UM’s big 3 (Harris, Sims and whoever UM’s hot shooter will be). Candidates for that last spot – Laval Lucas-Perry, Zach Novak or Stu Douglass. PSU’s perimeter D will have to be on point tonight. Talor Battle and Jamelle Cornley have to stay healthy all game, as well. Battle will play, but he still suffered that ‘minor groin injury’ against IU. Will he be able to play 36+ minutes? Jamelle was limping at the end of the MSU game. These signs of breakdown by these two players aren’t good. It’s only 6 games into the Big Ten schedule – they’ve got 12 more to go.
PREDICTION: That Duke win left me with the impression that not a lot of teams are going to win in Crisler this year and that UM was going to have a major say in the Big Ten race. But John Beilein was trying to keep everyone from going ga-ga over the Wolverines, so I believed him. UM’s recent struggles at home have reinforced my doubts. UM’s a year away. I’ll take PSU by 8. Wolverines need to show some road goods before I bet with them.
LETS GO STATE!