Tomorrow at noon the Penn St. Nittany Lions and the Kentucky Wildcats square off in Mohegan Sun Arena in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament tomorrow at noon. As luck (bad luck, by my lights) would have it, that is also roughly the time that the Wildcats football team kicks it off against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens.
A brief administrative note: We will be providing open threads for both games. Just use one browser tab for one and one browser tab for the other. I will once again be gambling my hard-earned money away at Churchill Downs tomorrow (my wife's plans) so I won't see either game. But I will be with you all in spirit. Ken will have the pregame for the football team up later this evening.
The Penn St. basketball team has a new coach this year, who came over from Boston University after Ed DeChellis took the job and the U.S. Naval Academy last May. DeChellis had done a very good job with PSU, getting them to the NCAA tournament last year, where they lost in the second round to Temple in a nail-biter, 66-64.
So far, this is what the Nittany Lions have done:
|Rank and Records||PSU||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#183||#129|
|RPI Top 50||1-0||0-0|
Penn St. Nittany Lions Basketball Roster
|Tim Frazier||23||G||Starter, LS, 3LR, AST, STL
|Matt Glover||5||G||Sixth man||205||6-4||sophomore|
|Jonathan Graham||25||F||Key reserve, BLK
|Trey Lewis||3||G||Starter, 3LS
|Jermaine Marshall||11||G||Key reserve||190||6-4||sophomore|
|Devonte (DJ) Newbill||2||G||-||205||6-4||sophomore|
|Billy Oliver||35||F||Starter, 2LR
|Ross Travis||43||F||Key reserve||215||6-8||freshman|
|Cammeron Woodyard||24||G||Starter, 2LS, LR
Tim Frazier and Billy Oliver are expected to lead the team this year as juniors and will be the primary scoring options. The Nittany Lions lost 80% of their scoring and almost 70% of their rebounding to graduation, so this year is expected to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for them.
Tim Frazier is the only returning starter on the team, and so far has been living up to expectations. Freshman Trey Lewis is currently the most dangerous threat from 3-point range, shooting 46% so far this year. Cameron Woodyard is also a dangerous 3-point shooter. Matt Glover is a glue guy coming off the bench and currently sees starter's minutes.
The Four Factors to Winning
Kentucky is plainly the better shooting team, but the Nittany Lions compare favorably in the other three stats, particularly in offensive rebounding percentage. At this point in the season, these stats don't mean much, so take them with a grain of salt. With that said, UK shoots so well because so many of their points have been either shots from above the rim, layups in transition, or wide-open 3-point shots.
Penn St. figures to get very few of the first two against Kentucky, and good three point shooting will probably not save them. Long rebounds will result in highlight-reel dunks for Kentucky, as they are by far the longer, faster, and more athletic team, not to mention more talented.
Kentucky could block 15 shots against PSU, and I'd be surprised if they didn't have 10.
Penn St. is a nice team in a rebuilding mode. They have feasted on high-calorie opponents so far like most of the rest of college basketball, and that is for a reason -- they are trying to gain confidence and learn how to win as a team.
But their unbeaten streak comes to an end Saturday afternoon. Unless Kentucky simply fails to do anything to an acceptable level, the odds of the Nittany Lions pulling the upset on a neutral court against a team like Kentucky are mid-single digits at best.
Calipari will be looking to improve the glaring flaws we all saw out of UK in the game against Kansas -- breaking off plays, throwing the ball to the open opponent, mishandling the ball on the break and defending with a cape instead of an attitude. Expect Coach Cal to have the team motivated but controlled in this game, and if they execute with even marginal sharpness, this game could easily be over by halftime, or with double-digit minutes left in the second half at worst.
Enjoy the game tomorrow.