|WHAT||#6 Michigan (22-2) vs
#62 Penn State (8-15)
|WHERE||Far Too Large For Penn State Basketball Center
State College, PA
|LINE||Michigan –8, 75% to win (Kenpom)
Michigan –7.3, 79% to win (Torvik)
With a frustrating, but satisfying, win against Wisconsin now in the rear-view mirror Michigan turns to the stretch run.
Incredibly, six of their final seven games are in quadrant one, including this next one against 8-15 Penn State. This is a massive difference brought about by the NET ratings: PSU is #122 in RPI and would barely be Quad 2 under its regime. Also hanging on by the skin of their teeth as a Q1 win for Michigan is @ Northwestern. That too would be a win barely hanging on to Q2 status under RPI. The NET switch came at the perfect time for a resurgent Big Ten, and if Michigan is sitting on top of it their resume is going to be tough to deny.
THE LINEUP CARD
Click for big.
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||13||Rasir Bolton||Fr.||6'2, 180||67||25||98||No|
|#206 composite FR. Not Just A Shooter who's 44% from deep and worse inside line, but does get to free throw line. Not a point guard.|
|G||2||Myles Dread||Fr.||6'4, 215||71||14||110||No|
|#164 composite FR. Just A Shooter hitting 34%.|
|G||44||Josh Reaves||Sr.||6'5, 214||81||20||95||Meh|
|Pesky defender is top 20 in steals last three years but has suffered greatly attempting to take on more responsibility this yea. TO rate spike.|
|F||11||Lamar Stevens||Jr.||6'8 230||90||29||98||Probably?|
|Finesse 4 takes a ton of off the dribble jumpers. Ill-suited to be a go-to guy but here we are. 18% on threes this year; 32% last year.|
|C||24||Mike Watkins||Jr.||6'9, 254||56*||22||99||Yes|
|All Big Ten Defensive Team C is rebound machine with last year's #29 block rate. Missed first 5 games with Issues.|
|C||21||John Harrar||So.||6'9, 243||33*||12||111||Yes|
|Generic Backup C, except he doesn't do much shot altering. OREB hound.|
|G||5||Jamari Wheeler||So.||6'1 170||51||12||93||Yes|
|Handsy D pest commits a ton of fouls and can't shoot.|
|G||0||Myreon Jones||Fr.||6'3, 170||27||22||76||Yes|
|Composite #180 FR. Takes a ton of shots when he's on the court and is hitting 31/29.|
|F||35||Trent Buttrick||So.||6'8 234||19||12||112||Meh|
|Heh. (Just A Shooter.)|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
When Penn State rolled into Crisler Arena on January 3rd they were 7-6 and almost certainly already out of NCAA contention. Michigan ran out to a quick ten-point lead and more or less held it for the duration of the game; at one point Pat Chambers yelled at one of his players in an unsuitable fashion and got suspended for the next game.
After that loss in Crisler things got even rougher. Penn State is in the Big Ten basement at 1-11, with the lone win over Northwestern. But! After taking a series of beatings from the better teams in the conference they righted the ship somewhat. They're agonizingly close to a run of excellent form. Their last five losses have been close. PSU led Iowa 82-81 with two minutes left and ate an 8-0 run to close the game. Then they lost lost by one at Minnesota, by four to Rutgers, in overtime against Purdue, and by four at Ohio State.
This is why a road game at a 1-11 team still qualifies as an A-tier game on Kenpom. #62 Penn State's bad, but they're the best damn 8-win team in the country by a mile. You have to go all the way down to #171 Mercer before you find another eight win team. So they've got that going for them. This will be incredibly comforting to Pat Chambers when he takes a job in the Patriot League.
no reason to stop using PRIME MUSTACHE PICTURE
As per usual with rematches, the original preview's personnel overview is close enough to on point to point you to it and throw some updated bullets:
- Center Mike Watkins saw his post-Tony-Carr shooting collapse from 69% to 50% at the time of the first meeting. He's done yeoman work to get that back up to 56%; he's shooting 60% from the floor in conference play. His 8/11 outing in the first game felt like a bunch of fluky shots going down but that may be too harsh.
- Josh Reaves's post-Carr offensive regression has not abated: a 25 TO rate and 50/32 shooting leave him at an ugly 96 ORTG, which is down a whopping 20 points from last year. He does have the top steal rate in league play and is 11th nationally. This does involve some gambling that can unbalance PSU's defense when he whiffs.
- Lamar Stevens still takes a giant number of two-point jumpers (203 on the season) that he's hitting at 34%. This is down from 38% last time. He has managed to drag his three-point shooting up to 22% from 18% last time.
- Rasir Bolton's three point shooting has collapsed from 44% to 36% as he's at just 26% in conference play. Very much a "scouting report is out" situation.
- Bench G Myreon Jones is having a miraculously bad season. His shooting was 31/29 in the last preview. This time around: 28/25. And he still takes a quarter of PSU shots when he's on the floor! Unsurprisingly, his PT has evaporated, with just 13 minutes in PSU's last four games.
- Trent Buttrick. Heh.
- 6'5" freshman Kyle McCloskey has emerged into a bench piece. He's got 11 shots on the season so nothing to go on; his 12% usage indicates a guy who sits in the corner and doesn't do much else on offense.
In addition, Reaves (and Teske) were scouted as defenders in this post from Professional Basketball Combine Dot Com. Reaves:
Josh Reaves (#23) is one of the best off-ball defenders in the country. His activity, length, and instincts on the defensive end make him a menace as an impact playmaker and passing lane disruptor. Reaves’ effectiveness as a team defender is primarily catalyzed by his quick, instinctual reads.
Click through for Teske.
It was ugly then and it's uglier now. PSU is 138th in offensive efficiency because they're one of the most brick-tastic teams in the country. They're 297th in both two- and three-point shooting, which adds up to an eFG% that's 315th. Things are even worse in conference play, where they're hitting 28% of their threes.
Decent to good turnover and OREB rates fall to dead average in league play, where PSU is 8th and 7th, respectively. They suffer a lot of blocked shots and a lot of open-court turnovers. They attempt to compensate by playing fast, which doesn't really work against Michigan.
PSU defense was top 25 entering the first matchup; it's fallen to 37th. More alarmingly for whatever PSU fans are hanging by a thread, it's just ninth in league play. Part of that is just bad luck as B10 PSU opponents are hitting 41% of their threes. That is probably beyond the realm of incompetence. PSU is almost top 50 nationally at preventing three-point launches*.
If that's the case, PSU's defense is solid to very good and just snakebit. They're 4th in the Big Ten at forcing turnovers and get a ton of steals; they clean their own boards well; they're good-ish at contesting twos. They give up a fair number of FTs, but that's the only thing they're substandard at except being rained upon.
*[Remarkably, they are just 7th in league play in 3PA/FGA on defense. No conference in the country prevents launches like the B10, which has #2 (Michigan), #10 (Northwestern), #11 (Nebraska), #22 (Minnesota), #47 (Illinois), #52 (Wisconsin) and #53 (Penn State).]
Keep Stevens off the line. One theme in this recent PSU run of almosts has been gobs of free throws for Stevens. In their last five games: 6/8, 6/8, 14/17(!), 8/10, 8/9. This is a bonkers thing to do to a guy who gets about 20% of his shots at the rim. FWIW, Michigan held him to 2 FTA in the first game and while Stevens put up 17 it took him 19 shot attempts to get there; he checked in with an 85 ORTG.
Keep doing this Charles Matthews? PSU is a team that will let you get to the rim but Matthews is likely to draw Josh Reaves, a guy who generates a ton of steals. Matthews will probably be taking another chunk of midrange jumpers. For now and later, it would be real nice if an acceptable number went down.
tight spaces [Campredon]
Open-court turnovers. Penn State is one of the most heavily transition-dependent teams in the country:
They generate a lot of that with steals, but this is #36 in steal rate going up against the #1 team at preventing them. PSU transition points have the ability to keep them in contact. They didn't at Crisler because Michigan got back—the 14 shots PSU got up in the first ten seconds of the shot clock had the exact same efficiency (43% eFG) as the rest of their attempts.
No threes, as per usual. Michigan kicked off PSU's dismal three point shooting in earnest by forcing a 1/14 night. Watkins can post all he wants, no doubles, no threes, try to grind out a PPP against this D two at a time.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 8.