Penn State vs. No. 6 Michigan Preview: Nothing to Lose

By Chad Markulics on February 12, 2019 at 10:50 am
Feb 1, 2019; Iowa City, IA, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Zavier Simpson (3) in action during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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Michigan Wolverines
No. 6 Michigan Wolverines
22-2 (11-2 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
8:30 p.m. EST - Tuesday, Feb. 12
Bryce Jordan Center
State College, PA
Watch Info: BTN/BTN2Go I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 6
Vegas Line: UM -6.5

Penn State doesn't have much to play for on Tuesday night as they welcome No. 6 Michigan to the Bryce Jordan Center. They didn't have much to play for back in 2012 either when they defeated eventual national runners-up Michigan, but that didn't stop D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall from recording one of the all-time great upsets in Nittany Lion hoops history. There's a similar "nothing to lose" feel around this iteration of Pat Chambers' squad, now that there's little doubt over the outcome of this season, and it only takes 40 minutes of hot shooting to pull off an historic upset.

The visiting Wolverines come in fresh off a 61-52 revenge victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, though it wasn't without some struggles. Freshman stud Iggy Brazdeikis scored just two points in the win, bringing his grand total of points against the Badgers to two for the season. Zavier Simpson, likely to pip Josh Reaves for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, merely posted a 5-4-5 line in all 40 minutes. Cracks are starting to show for this Michigan rotation, which only goes about six deep to begin with, and a quick turnaround against a more rested Penn State team isn't anyone's cup of tea. Whether this particular Penn State team can deepen those cracks, well...

Projected Starters
Penn State   Michigan
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Soph. 1 Zavier Simpson - 6'0" - Jr.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Fr. 2 Jordan Poole - 6'5" - Soph.
Josh Reaves - 6'5" - Sr. 3 Charles Matthews - 6'6" - Sr.
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Jr. 4 Ignas Brazdeikis - 6'7" - Fr.
Mike Watkins - 6'9" - RS Jr. 5 Jon Teske - 7'1" - Jr.

Scouting Report

Michigan was all about defense the last time these teams faced off back in January in Ann Arbor. That hasn't changed. The Wolverines have defended better than any team in the Big Ten by a significant margin, allowing just 86.7 points per 100 possessions across their entire schedule and leading second-best Wisconsin in conference-only adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom) by 2.7 points per 100 possessions. Spearheaded by Simpson (rightfully deemed the best point of attack defender in the conference, stats be damned) and anchored by Jon Teske, this defense is no joke. Penn State found that out the hard way in that first meeting, shooting 1-14 from three and turning the ball over 18 times. John Beilein opts to defend the crap out of the three point line, which doesn't lend opponents many upset opportunities.

Penn State did defend admirably in Ann Arbor, which kept them in the game until the end despite scoring a mere 0.76 points per possession. And if Iowa (113th in defensive efficiency) can lock this Michigan offense up, which they did less than two weeks ago in a 72-59 win in Iowa City, then by golly Penn State can too. The Lions are gonna have to do some three-point defending of their own to get that job done though.

Keys to the Game

Penn State needs to generate and make outside shots. Doesn't need to be any more complicated than that. They don't have much of a chance otherwise. Rasir Bolton will have to have quite the redemption game between a seven-turnover performance in the reverse fixture and missing the game-tying bunny in Columbus last week. No pressure, rookie.

Prediction

It feels like something has to break for this Penn State team at some point, right? Well if they do I'm certainly not going to be responsible for jinxing it. Michigan 68, Penn State 59.

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