Thursday, January 7, 2010

Penn State Preview

Michigan takes on a struggling Penn State tonight at the Bryce Jordan Center in what is a must-win for Michigan should they have any fantasies about making it to the postseason. Penn State is coming off back-to-back conference losses to Minnesota and Wisconsin, more or less holding serve with the former but getting blow out by the latter. Michigan, meanwhile, is coming off a big win against an Evan Turner-less Ohio State. (Can we all agree now how happy we are that Michigan played OSU the game before Turner came back? Though he was mostly unimpressive in his return, his presence might've been enough to beat Michigan and basically bounce them from the postseason altogether. The rematch in Columbus this year is going to be ugly.)

Penn State's top performer is speedster supergaurd Taylor Battle, who is averaging 18.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 3.6 APG, while shooting 43% from the field (34% from 3-point). So basically Manny Harris numbers on a guy that's five inches shorter and faster. If Michigan wants to win this game, they're going to have to shut Battle down. This will be done with a combination of players: Darrius Morris, LLP, and maybe even Stu Douglass for a time. As presumably the fastest of the three, I wouldn't be surprised to see Morris' minutes go up in this game as he tries to keep Battle in front of him. And while Douglass may be too slow, he's probably long enough to bother Battle's shot. I expect too, that Manny will play Battle on a number of possessions.

As for Michigan, you know the drill: No bench, can't rebound, probably can't shoot, relies on Harris and Sims--both of whom are coming off huge performances against OSU. Michigan is going to need another big game from their big two, and if Douglass and Novak are hitting shots, Michigan might be in business. Douglass looks like he may have found his stroke again, but Novak, aside from a five-shot streak of brilliance against Indiana, has looked inept. Fortunately, Penn State has the same size issues that Michigan does, so the rebounding edge will probably be a toss up. Penn State is also shooting well from 3-point on the season (34%), so being able to defend the three point arc without giving up the lane too much will be essential.

I don't really have any idea how this one will play out. These teams are pretty evenly matched this year (sad, yes). I'd like to see Beilein go back to the 1-3-1 a little more in this game (he may have against OSU, but I wasn't able to watch most of that game) and basically never use the 2-3 zone which appears to be awful for this team. If Michigan can't find an answer for Battle, and all results this season indicate they probably can't, they'll be in for a long night.


Unknown said...

Three keys:

Shutting down Battle.
Mr. Sims.
Decent play from either Morris or LLP.

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