Last season Penn State was solidly in the NCAA field for only the 10th time ever and first time in nine years. It was the most complete Penn State team in a very long time, and one that was poised to do some real damage. It didn’t happen, and Penn State is now back to being Penn State-y.
COVID limited them to just four non-conference games, preventing them from padding their record with some necessary wins. Now the computer numbers are more than good enough, but they are not getting in at 8-12. I suppose they have a small chance if they win their final three games against Purdue, Minnesota, and Maryland, plus grab a couple of games in the Big Ten Tournament, but it seems very unlikely. Playing a tough schedule is great, but eventually you have to win a few of those games.
They are still a dangerous spoiler.
From: State College, Pennsylvania
Date: Friday, February 26, 2021
Tip Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Bryce Jordan Center (15,261)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2019-20 Record: 21-10, 11-9 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 8-12, 5-11 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Black Shoe Diaries
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 40-13
Last Penn State Win: 88-76 at Purdue on 2/11/2020
Last Purdue Win: 80-72 at Purdue on 1/17/2021
NCAA Tournament History: 9 appearances, last in 2011. 1954 Final Four
Coach: Jim Ferry (8-12 as 1st year interim coach, 322-277 overall)
Penn State could be a tournament team, but like Purdue last year, they have a number of agonizingly close losses that will likely cost them in the end. They lost to Seton Hall in overtime, at Michigan by 4, at Indiana in overtime, at Ohio State by 4, at Michigan State by 2, at Iowa by 6, and a devastating 1 point home loss to Nebraska for the Cornhuskers’ only win in league play. If even three of those games go Penn State’s way they are a solid NCAA team.
Unfortunately, they haven’t, and Penn State enters this game having lost four straight before Tuesday’s win at Nebraska (in which Teddy Allen scored 41 against them). This is still a good team even if the overall record is not great. They have the talent to beat the better teams in the conference. What hurts them is a lousy defense, especially inside. They are last in the conference in scoring, giving up 74.3 points per game. They are last in defensive field goal percentage at 47% and on the other side they only hit 41% of their shots.
Purdue’s win in January was a study in balance. All five Purdue starters scored at least 12 points and none more than 15. Eric Hunter Jr. added 5 assists and Trevion Williams had 11 rebounds. Purdue was not good shooting from three (6 of 32), but was 19 of 30 inside the arc and got to the free throw line 33 times to Penn State’s 13.
The player that did the most damage was Myreon Jones, who is auditioning to be the next Talor Battle/DJ Newbill/Geary Claxton/Tim Frazier as “the guard that can light up opponents on any given night. He had 23 and hit five threes. John Harrar had 14 points and 14 rebounds as well. Izaiah Brockington also had 12 and continues to average a solid 13.4 per game.
The downside for Penn State is that they really do not have much of a post presence outside of Harrar. In spelling Trevion Zach Edey had 7 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes. If Harrar gets into foul trouble there is basically nothing there to stop Tre.
I am viewing this game a lot like the Minnesota and Maryland road games. I don’t expect to win going away. It is going to be a tight contest unless Purdue finds it three-point shooting stroke with any consistency. This is still a game Purdue should be able to win, however. The advantage of Tre and Edey down low is significant, and Penn State has struggled defensively all year.