I am wary of tomorrow’s games in Happy Valley. Penn State basketball is famously not good. They have just three NCAA Tournament appearances since joining the Big Ten and the worst home court atmosphere in the cavernous and empty Bryce Jordan Mausoleum. That place has a nasty habit of lulling opposing teams into a coma, especially if they are ranked. In 7 of the last 8 seasons they have upset at least one ranked Big Ten team at home despite only going to the NCAAs in 2011:
2017-18: #8 Ohio State 79-56 (26-13 final record, NIT champs)
2016-17: #21 Maryland 70-64 #24 Minnesota 52-50 (15-18)
2015-16: #4 Iowa 79-75, #22 Indiana 68-63 (16-16)
2014-15: None, went 18-16, closest was 55-47 loss to #5 Wisconsin
2013-14: #22 Ohio State 65-63 (15-17)
2012-13: #4 Michigan 84-78 (10-21)
2011-12: #22 Illinois 54-52 (12-20)
2010-11: #17 Wisconsin 57-52 (19-14, made NCAA)
2009-10: None, closest was 75-67 vs. #9 Ohio State (11-20)
There have been other big upsets there too. In 2008 they beat #8 Michigan State despite going 15-16. Northwestern lost at least two NCAA bids because it lost to really bad Penn State teams. The 2012-13 win over Michigan was especially stunning because Penn State finished 2-16 in conference play and it eventually cost the Wolverines a share of the Big Ten title.
This game scares me cause the Nittany Lions are winless in conference play and gave up just the second road win by Rutgers since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten. They have kept teams close though. We cannot take this game for granted.
From: State College, PA
Date : Thursday, January 31, 2019
Tip Time: 7pm ET
Location: State College, PA
Arena: Bryce Jordan Center (15,261)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Online: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line yet
2017-18 Record: 26-13, 9-9 Big Ten (NIT Champs)
2018-19 Record: 7-13, 0-9 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Black Shoe Diaries
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 37-12
Last Penn State Win: 79-68 at Penn State on 2/2/2014
Last Purdue Win: 78-70 in Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden
NCAA Tournament History: 9 Appearances, last in 2011. 1954 Final Four
Coach: Pat Chambers (120-135 in 7th season at Penn State. 162-163 overall)
We should definitely be concerned here. Penn State may be 0-9 in the Big Ten, but six losses have been by less than 10 points. They lost by two to Indiana, 1 to Minnesota, 4 to Rutgers, 6 to Nebraska, 7 to Iowa, and 7 to Maryland. The Maryland, Minnesota, and Nebraska losses were all on the road. Their best win by far was 63-62 over Virginia Tech just nine days after we played the Hokies. They also played North Carolina State close, but have losses to Bradley, DePaul, and Alabama.
As usual, Penn State has a lead player that is an all-Big Ten candidate despite not having a ton of help. Talor Battle, Tim Frazier, D.J. Newbill, and Tony Carr have come and gone, but this time they have Lamar Stevens. He is averaging 18.7 points (third in the conference) and 7.9 rebounds (eighth in the conference) as one of the league’s best players. At 6’8” and 230 pounds he has the size to get to the basket and he can step out and shoot the three a little.
Rasir Bolton (11.4 ppg) and Josh Reaves (10.1) are the other two players averaging in double figures. They form a nice backcourt for the Nittany Lions, but Penn State is not a team with a lot of size. Matt Haarms has no one within 6 inches of his height and the improved role of Trevion Williams means Purdue absolutely should dominate in the post.
This is also a team that relies heavily on its top 5. Myles Dread (8.8 ppg) and Mike Watkins (8.4 ppg) round that five out, but no one else on the roster averages better than 3.6 points per game. That is a big reason that PennS ate is 13th in the conference in scoring at 67.4 points per game. By contrast, Purdue averages 78 per game and is third behind Iowa and Michigan State.
They are not making things easier defensively, either. Purdue and Penn State are tied for 10th in the conference at 68 points per game given up, but Purdue’s number has been dropping dramatically with its improved play. Penn State is the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference while Purdue is third. Penn State is 10th in 3-point defense while Purdue is last, but we’re closing the gap after an awful start to the season there.
Really, this is a game where Purdue should take care of business as long as there is not a big dropoff. Still, last year’s trip to Madison is a painful reminder that even good teams can have awful games. There is no reason we shouldn’t have won that game by 20, but instead we were awful and it cost us the Big Ten. That is exactly the type of game that could bite us here, especially against a hungry Penn State team that has had several close calls.