Penn State vs. Northwestern Preview: Nittany Lions Back on the Road

By Matt Simco on February 4, 2019 at 8:30 am
Dec 4, 2018; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats center Dererk Pardon (5) reacts after a play against the Michigan Wolverines during the second half at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern Wildcats
12-9 (3-7 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
8:00 p.m. ET - Monday, February 4th
Welsh-Ryan Arena
Evanston, Illinois
Watch Info: FS1/Fox Sports Go
KenPom Rank: 62
Vegas Line: Northwestern -4

After back to back home losses, Penn State is desperately seeking a win on Monday night when they face off against the Northwestern Wildcats (12-9, 3-7) at Welsh-Ryan Arena. With the losses to Purdue and Rutgers, the Nittany Lions have now lost five straight games in State College. They have not been any better on the road, similarly losing their last five away from home. This has culminated into an 8 game losing streak, and their ten straight Big Ten losses to start the conference season is their worst start since Pat Chambers' second season in 2012-2013.  

Projected Starters
Penn State   Northwestern
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Soph. 1 Anthony Gaines - 6'4" - Soph.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Fr. 2 Ryan Taylor - 6'6" - Sr.
Josh Reaves - 6'4" - Sr. 3 A.J. Turner - 6'7" - Jr. 
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Jr. 4 Vic Law - 6'7" - Sr. 
Mike Watkins - 6'9" - RS Jr. 5 Dererk Pardon - 6'8" - Sr.

Scouting report

Opposite of Penn State, Chris Collins and his Wildcats team are returning to home after two straight on the road. Northwestern lost both of those games in convincing fashion to two good ball clubs in Wisconsin and Maryland. The newly renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena hasn't exactly been a fortress in 2019 - the Wildcats are 9-3 in their first season back after playing all of their home games at DePaul's old arena last year.

Senior Vic Law is Northwestern's best overall player. The versatile forward is known for his slashing and ability to stretch the floor, although he's shooting a career-low 33% from deep this year. Law averages 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and is one of two Wildcats to average over a block per game. The second four-year Wildcat in the starting five is Dererk Pardon, who leads the team in rebounding with 7.8 boards per game. He is also the second leading scorer at 13.9 ppg. A pair of transfers, Ryan Taylor and A.J. Reeves, also see over 30 minutes per game. 

Despite not having a true point guard on the roster to replace Wildcat legend Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern is still one of the better passing teams in the country. Collins' bunch tallies an assist on 62.7% of their possessions, good for the eighth-highest ratio in the country. That's a testament to their offense's great ball movement, but Jamari Wheeler and Josh Reaves should get plenty of opportunities to play passing lanes and create transition opportunities for the visitors.

Prediction

Northwestern will be feeling good back at home, and playing against a much less difficult opponent than the two they have just played against on the road. It's hard to see Penn State getting over the hump away from the BJC, and I can't pick them to win until proven otherwise. Northwestern 66 Penn State 58.

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