Battle returning, other news

May 13, 2010

Here’s a few offseason updates.

-Talor Battle withdrew from the NBA Draft to apparently the surprise of some people. This is old news, but it’s just a little bit big for PSU. I don’t know how many people thought he would leave, but I personally was never concerned. Talor’s a smart guy. I’m happy he was finally able to get a pre-draft workout with the Trailblazers just before the deadline. He reportedly made 36 of 50 NBA threes. But in reality, Talor’s chances to get drafted and stick in the pros were pretty slim this year. I will say right now, though, I do expect Talor Battle to hear his name called in the 2011 NBA draft. Just a hunch.

-On the recruiting front, Penn State has been busy looking to fill their 2 remaining scholarships for the 2010 class with some big men. It’s been reported that the staff is not planning to hold the open 2 ‘ships for the 2011 class, unless they presumably strikeout on their targets. A couple kids who have been on visits recently have committed elsewhere. 6’7″ F Andre Roberson from Texas chose Colorado over PSU. 6’7″ F Colton Christian from Hargrave Military Academy by way of Bellevue, WA, committed to Michigan over Cal and PSU. Previous targets who have also gone elsewhere: Dwight McCombs (Central Florida), Andre Clark (TCU), and Eric McKnight (Iowa State). However, while PSU has struck out with these guys, all hope is not lost. It seems very possible that 6’8″ F Jonathan Graham from Baltimore could end up at Penn State. He reportedly was seen on campus two weeks ago and presumably will make his decision by May 19th, the end of the spring signing period. It was found out today by Nate Bauer at BWI that Graham is visiting today. There’ll be more on Graham when his decision is public (especially if it’s PSU).

-A couple of scheduling tidbits. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge was released today. PSU fans have been complaining forever that the Nittany Lions play the same teams in this challenge. At the beginning, it was Clemson year after year. But the last 4 seasons have brought Georgia Tech (2x), Virginia Tech, and Virginia. What I believe to be the root of PSU’s complaints is the fact that they just really want to play Maryland once and were never given the opportunity. Well, lo and behold, the Terrapins will be traveling to State College on December 1st (on Wednesday, wonder how the staff feels about the 76 Classic withdrawal now?). It’s a very exciting matchup between quiet rivals who really don’t play each other in either revenue sport for no apparent reason. Well I’m sure there’s some bullshit money excuse, but it’s nice that ESPN has set up this gig. Maryland was co-ACC champs last season, but they lost do-everything PG Greivis Vasquez and their other 2 leading scorers. They obviously are a traditionally strong opponent, but it’s probably looking like a ‘down year’ for the turtle next season, or at least by their standards. But that means it could be a very winnable game for the Nittany Lions.

-Also, it was discovered that Fairfield will be traveling to the BJC next year as well (although the source has since rescinded the leaked opponents on Fairfield’s schedule). I don’t know too much about the MAAC, but it’s very possible the Stags will be preseason favorites to win the conference. They finished 2nd in 2009-2010, runners-up to the dominant Siena Saints. Here’s a nice prospective overview of the Stags from USAToday of all sources. These are the types of games the Nittany Lions need to schedule for the sake of their RPI and SOS. Fairfield will easily be a top 200 team, possibly top 100. They don’t pack the name recognition to sell out the BJC, but they are eons better than any America East squad.

That brings the 2010 schedule to this so far:

  • vs. Maryland
  • @ Ole Miss
  • @ Virginia Tech
  • vs. Fairfield
  • vs. Delaware State
  • vs. Lehigh

Hopefully the remainder of the schedule is strong. I don’t believe this was posted on the blog but Cornell was going to travel to Penn State for a game. That, however, has been dropped, which is a smart move on PSU’s end because there is no way the Big Red is going to contend next year. Their run this year was marvelous, but that program is now in serious rebuild mode after the mass exodus. Highly unlikely they’re above 250 or so next season. Also, it was also reported by a fan that Kanaskie said at a public function we were in negotiations with Kansas to play a home-and-home series in Kansas City and Hershey. It is unknown whether that has fallen through or if those negotiations are still ongoing.

That’s all for now.


Battle submits his name

April 8, 2010

Or in otherwords, he’s giving himself the opportunity to get evaluated by NBA scouts. That’s all it really is. This was to be expected. He’s got until May 8th to withdraw his name.

Find me an NBA mock draft with Talor Battle in it, and then maybe I’ll actually be worried about him leaving. The only thing I’m worried about is how is he going to finish out this semester if he’s going to be on the road working out with NBA teams over the next month? (EDIT: NCAA rules prohibit players from missing class for NBA workouts, so if Talor did that, he would basically be giving up his eligibility).

Of course, I hope Talor performs well in workouts. I’m rooting for him as always. I just don’t see how he’s going to be able to do anything in a month to raise his draft status from undrafted to a sure pick, which is what I think it would take for TB to leave. As I’ve said before, you can bet the house on Talor Battle and Taran Buie being in Penn State uniforms in 2010-2011.

There’s nothing to see here, move along.

Time to Deliver

March 11, 2010

If you don’t love this time of year, you must be one of those hooligans who proclaims the superiority of college football and their ‘meaningful’ regular season as a means to keep the wonderful bowl system we all love. Thank God for college basketball and its postseason. WIth how brilliantly it all works out and how much of a joy it is to watch, you’d think basketball were geniuses. Nope, football is just that moronic. But enough of that.

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that PSU is not the worst basketball team in the conference right now at the end of the season (when it’s most important). However, the standings say so and PSU gets the 11-seed in the Big Ten tournament. But what’s exciting is, everybody gets new life. PSU has the opportunity to build on their inspired play of late and make up for this disaster of a season.

The first step is today against 6-seed Minnesota, who’s NCAA at-large hopes hinges on a good performance the next few days. It’s been a disappointing season for the Gophers, too, relative to expectations. I don’t hesitate in saying this could very well be Tubby’s worst coaching job I’ve seen. Al Nolen’s academic suspension certainly didn’t help. But this team is way too talented to lay eggs in March against weaker teams, especially considering their bubble hopes.

PSU played Minnesota tough the first two meetings, but lost both of them. There really was no consistent correlation between the two games. We have not had much success against Minnesota in recent years, but there’s no doubt in my mind that PSU can win this game. However, I think much of the outcome of this game depends on Minnesota’s effort level. They present matchup problems that PSU can’t handle.

Keys for PSU:

  • Handle the Gophers press, when they do, and limit TOs. 25% TO rate killed the Lions in the first meeting.
  • Keep rebounding the basketball. It didn’t hurt PSU in the first two meetings, but if Minnesota outrebounds PSU, I believe that will signify Golden Gopher dominance down low with their size.
  • Out shoot the Gophers from 3. Hoffarber is still hitting 48% of his threes. Babb and Battle have to produce more than Hoff and Westbrook, IMO.
  • Continued Jeff Brooks’ aggressiveness. Jeff’s unstoppable when he plays within himself and with confidence. But the ticking time bomb that is his mind can always backfire on him.
  • Get some valuable bench production. If PSU is going to do anything in this tournament, the bench has to show up with 10 minutes of production, not 5 minutes of liability. Frazier, Edwards, Ott, and even Woodyard and Borovnjak need to be ready to play this weekend.

Now, yes, we know about the universal rule in tournament play, but if PSU pulls out a W today, I really like how their end of the bracket is set up for the Lions to get on a little bit of a roll and make some noise. Wisconsin and Ohio State, who we haven’t beaten since 2003, are on the opposite side. PSU wouldn’t face either until the finals. Up next for PSU would be a Michigan State team, without Chris Allen.  Then would be the Hummel-less Boilers again (unless our favorite whipping boy, Northwestern, could pull out some magic themselves).  Obviously both teams are still gonna be tough, but they aren’t hopeless.

We’ll see. Hopefully we’re in for some exciting basketball (that lasts longer than a day). If this season has taught Nittany Lions fans anything, it’s we have the players to compete in this league. The first step is the Golden Gophers (tentative 7:30 tip, Big Ten Network). It’s time for the Lions to deliver on this season. It’s their last chance.

High Percentage Shots

February 15, 2010

You all can make your own opinions about the information laid out on this post. This is simply a possession-by-possession offensive breakdown of PSU’s 65-54 loss to Michigan State. The entry pass count is obviously how many times PSU threw an entry pass into the paint to somebody posted up with their back to the basket. The center touches count is how many times Andrew Jones or Andrew Ott touch the ball on each possession.

Editor’s Note: If you don’t want to spend the time reading this novel, you should just scroll down to the end and read the final counts.

Possession #1 – 7 passes around the perimeter leads to a badly missed 3 from Babb. Nobody posted up once to call for the ball. Entry Pass Count – 0. Center Touches – 0. Shot Clock Usage – :28 seconds

Possession #2 – Jeff Brooks receives the first pass and drives into the lane. His penetration forces Derrick Nix to help, leaving Andrew Jones open on the low block. Brooks sees it and passes the ball. Jones fumbles the pass out of bounds for an unforced turnover. Poor execution on both players’ account. EPC – 0. CT – 1. SCU – :09.

Possession #3 – Ball screens and dribble handoffs for 20 seconds. Nobody posts up once. Battle is left with the ball 30 feet from the hoop. His forced drive marked the first time the ball crossed the 3 point line. He doesn’t even make it past the foul line before he loses the ball. Turnover #2. EPC – 0.  CT – 1. SCU – :28.

Possession #4 – Miscommunication on MSU’s part leaves Chris Babb with the ball at the wing and an open baseline. Good recognition by Babb to drive and draw the foul. He made 1 of 2 at the line. EPC – 0. CT -1. SCU – :14.

Possession #5 – Another questionable switch by MSU leaves Kalin Lucas on Jeff Brooks. Brooks actually posts up, which leads to the first entry pass by PSU. Good recognition by the team on the mismatch, but Brooks misses the shot because of good help defense by Nix. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :21.

Possession #6 (Transition) – Battle, probably bored from the last 5 possessions, forces a 2 on 3 break. He gets caught underneath after he drives it all the way to the hoop, but right when it looks like he’s about to pull it back out, he makes a crafty spin move and puts up a reverse lay up. He misses, but David Jackson grabs the offensive board and lays it back in. Good job by Brooks and DJ crashing the boards. Poor job by MSU getting back and boxing out.

Possession #7 (Transition) – A mishandled MSU pass leads to a steal by Chris Babb, who recognizes Battle running down the court. Battle makes a pretty over the shoulder catch and slams it home.

Possession #8 – After some more Battle/Babb/Jackson exchanges around the perimeter, Brooks attempts to post up again. However, he does so roughly 10 feet away from the hoop and ends up receiving the pass about 17 feet away on the wing (not an entry pass). Brooks aggressively (or recklessly, depending on your perspective) drives the baseline against Durrell Summers. Summers knocks the ball out of bounds with 14 seconds on the shot clock, a blessing considering Brooks was going absolutely nowhere with the ball. The inbounds play was pass the ball back to Brooks, who’s 30 feet away from the hoop. Brooks catches the ball and motions for Battle to come get the ball. This exchange somehow takes 5 seconds. Talor Battle now has the ball 30 feet away with 9 seconds left on the shot clock. He looks to the coaching staff for direction, another 3 seconds wasted. After realizing he is on his own, he calls David Jackson out for a screen, but DJ slips and Battle feeds him the ball out of the double team. DJ has the rock near the top of the key about 22 feet away with less than :03 on the shot clock (which is audibly known by the student section). He has enough room to put up the shot, but he somehow thinks he can make another pass to Ott underneath. Shot clock violation. Turnover #3. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :35 seconds.

Possession #9 – Brooks drives this time from the corner on Draymond Green, a much better match-up. He gets into the lane and makes a nice kickout pass to David Jackson, who nails the 3. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :09.

Possession #10 – Battle forces a three early in the possession off a ball screen from Jackson. Poor shot selection from Talor, as he airballed the shot. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :08.

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Michigan Preview

January 7, 2010

*My 21st birthday celebration was far more exciting than the drubbing UW put on PSU on Sunday, so apologies for the lack of a recap. It was your typical UW beatdown (just like the previous 10 beatdowns). I really couldn’t tell a difference between that game and last year’s 54-44 snoozer. No one had a significant advantage in rebounding or turnovers, UW just made their significantly easier shots while PSU missed their significantly harder shots. I thought PSU would put up a better fight, but they didn’t so we’re onto the next one.

WHO: Michigan Wolverines (7-6, 1-1)
WHERE: Bryce Jordan Center
LINE: Penn State by 2
Enemy Blog: UMHoops
Pomeroy Profile

Michigan’s season has been disastrous in the early going. A preseason top 25 team has stumbled mightily and has looked anything but. Their best win has been a 9 point home win against the Evan Turner-less Buckeyes (although no more! nice to see ET back playing). They’re in desperation mode if they want to get back to the NCAA tournament. They’ve performed terribly on the road, understandably losing to KU but also to Utah and Indiana.

While Wisconsin is one of the worst matchups for the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten, I think UM is one of the most favorable. They’re small and don’t really pose a threat on the glass. Their offense is predicated on threes and no turnovers. PSU doesn’t force turnovers anyway and it’s always easier to stop a shooting team than it is to stop a team that can dominate inside. Michigan’s defense is nothing like Minnesota/Wisconsin/Purdue, either. PSU should be able to get better shots and make them.

For no reason whatsoever, I just have a really good feeling about this game. Talor Battle on national TV against a team with no real threat to stop him…with PSU’s backs on the wall with the 0-2 start. I just think Talor’s going to go nuts. Not sure if he can top his 28 point, 13 rebound, 6 assist performance against the Wolverines his freshman year, but I’ll say he comes close. If David Jackson can keep Manny from going nuts as well, PSU could be in great shape. Or they could not guard anybody and watch UM shoot the Lions out of their own building. You never know but I’m surprisingly confident about this game. That is why I’ll take the Lions to cover the 2 point spread and win, 68-61.

Wisconsin Preview

January 3, 2010
  • WHO: Wisconsin Badgers (9-3)
  • WHERE: Bryce Jordan Center
  • WHEN: 2:00 PM
  • TV: Big Ten Network
  • LINE: Wisconsin by 4.5
  • Enemy Blog: Hoops Marinara
  • Pomeroy Profile

Huge game for the Nittany Lions in the Jordan Center today against Bo’s Badgers. Ed DeChellis will be looking for his first career win against Bo (0-10). It is not going to come easy.

These games against the Badgers always seem hopeless to me. Wisconsin always dictates the pace of the game (usually 56 possessions or so), and Penn State has always had trouble defending them for. It generally went like this; PSU would guard for 30 seconds and watch Wisconsin get a backdoor layup. Meanwhile, Wisconsin stymies PSU’s motion offense and the Nits look terrible. They shut down Battle last year and they’ll look to do the same again.

Wisconsin looked great against the Turner-less Buckeyes on Thursday, and they already have wins against Arizona, Maryland, Duke, and Marquette. However, they’ve only played on true road game and they lost (Wisconsin GB, 88-84 in OT). We all know how dominant the Badgers are in the Kohl Center, but this UW team has to prove itself on the road if they’re for real conference title contenders this season.

Neither team has a particularly deep bench (both go 8-deep). The Badgers are led by underrated senior PG, Trevon Hughes and junior F Jon Leuer. Jason Bohannon continues his limited role as a shooter, while Jordan Taylor is a solid guard off the bench. This is going to be a tough game, but it’s one PSU can win.

I’ve long thought that PSU should try to force the pace a little bit in these games, but they never do. They won’t force turnovers on defense, and Wisconsin will make sure they don’t get 2nd opportunities. PSU is just going to have to outshoot the Badgers. They need to create good shots in the halfcourt and pressure the Badgers into bad ones on defense. If Talor Battle outplays Hughes, I think PSU has a shot. Leuer is going to be tough to guard, but I think the Lions can get enough help from other players to compensate. It would be a huge advantage if the Lions can get Leuer in foul trouble early. Tim Frazier could also be a huge factor for Penn State’s offense if he is able to penetrate around Bohannon and dish like he did against the Gophers early. A lot of good matchups in this game and it will be interesting to see how each team responds.

PREDICTION: I just can’t pick against the Badgers until PSU is able to end this painfully lopsided streak. I’ve seen too many ugly games from PSU in this series to pick them to win. I’m taking UW to cover the 4.5 with some free throws late, but I won’t be shocked if PSU comes away with a big W.

Minnesota 75 PSU 70

January 2, 2010

Going into the game, I really believed PSU didn’t have a chance. But the Nittany Lions showed some toughness on the road and lost a hard-fought game to a supposedly much better team.

It didn’t look like it was going to be that way at the start. PSU looked dreadful in the first 10 minutes or so of the game as Minnesota raced out to a 21-10 lead. The offense was sputtering and Minnesota was getting further and further ahead. Stephen Bardo, the ESPN color guy, pointed to the foul on a Chris Babb 3-pointer as the turning point for PSU. Talor Battle hit a 3 on the next possession and PSU cut the lead to 5, but what seemed to be forgotten was Minnesota then extended their lead back to 10 at 26-16. I thought Tim Frazier was a huge key to why PSU stayed in the game in the first half. He came in and had 3 pretty assists that set up easy baskets in the half-court offense, something PSU wasn’t able to get before (except for a few long range jumpers from Battle). They went into halftime down only 7, a moral victory considering their play.

But a different PSU team came to play in the 2nd half. The Nittany Lions came out roaring to start the second half, as they hit their first 7 field goals. In the first 7 minutes, PSU outscored the Gophers 17-5 as they jumped out to a 44-39 lead. Talor Battle only contributed 2 of the 17 points. The damage was done mostly by Drew Jones and Jeff Brooks, who were getting great looks inside and finishing. It was exciting and encouraging to watch.

Minnesota weathered the early storm to the half as Hoffarber and Westbrook really started to get going, but PSU wouldn’t go away. Frazier hit a pretty 8 foot floater on a fast break and Battle then hit one of his patented 30-footers. The score was in PSU’s favor at 53-50 with 9 minutes left, when the turnovers came at all the wrong times. Minnesota stepped up the pressure and the Lions weren’t able to handle it, whether it was fatigue, inexperience, or inability to hang onto the rock. They turned it over on 4 straight possessions.

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