Penn State Takes On Hoosiers in First Round of B1G Tourney
Penn State and Indiana have seen each other before this time of year. They will face off in the first round of the Big Ten tournament this afternoon with tip-off scheduled for around 1:55 p.m., marking the third time in four years that the two teams have met in the opening round of conference tournament play.
Unlike the past two March meetings, the circumstances are a bit different this time around. As opposed to 2009 and 2011 when the Nittany Lions were on the bubble of the NCAA tournament and the Hoosiers were at the cellar of the Big Ten, Penn State (12-19, 4-14) enters as the lowest seed while Indiana (24-7, 11-7) enters as the fifteenth ranked team in the country. To put things in perspective, Penn State lost to Kentucky by thirty-eight points earlier in the season. Indiana dealt the number one-ranked Wildcats their only loss on the season three weeks later.
In addition to being the better statistical team, Indiana also has the advantage of playing in their home state. There are likely to be several Hoosier fans in attendance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as Indianapolis is a short drive from Bloomington as opposed to Penn State’s long trip from State College. It is probable that Indiana disposes of Penn State and moves on to Friday’s game against No. 14 Wisconsin (Full Bracket available here); however, things do not always go according to plan come March. Below are a few reasons why Penn State could potentially pull an upset tomorrow, which should be reason alone to watch:
- Recent Tournament History– As stated before, these teams know each other well. Penn State defeated Indiana in the first round of conference tournament play in 2009 and again last year. The Hoosiers have yet to win a Big Ten tournament game since Tom Crean took the job in 2008. While this is far and away his best team, a fast start from a Nittany Lions squad that has nothing to lose could make Indiana tighten up.
- Matchups This Season– In early January, Penn State hung with Indiana throughout the entire game, losing 88-82. Indiana forward Matt Roth who averages 4.7 points on the season scored 22 that day. That is not likely to happen again. Two weeks later, Penn State led Indiana by two at halftime on the road before an awful second half resulted in a nineteen point loss. While they will need to play a close to perfect game to keep things interesting, the Nittany Lions have showed they can hang with Indiana this year.
- Tim Frazier- Big time players show up in March. Penn State’s do it all junior point guard had a fantastic season but has shot a combined 14-41 in two games against Indiana. That is well below his season average of 42.1% from the field. A more efficient game will help keep Penn State close.
- Trey Lewis- Lewis was not active for either of Penn State’s two games against Indiana, but he looks to be rounding into form after playing in the final three games. Turn the freshman loose. Maybe he hits a big three pointer at some point.
- Pat Chambers- It has been, as was expected, an at times frustrating season for the first year coach’s young team, but Chambers has been able to get more out of his guys than most people expected. Aside from a twenty-four point loss to Purdue, Penn State has been competitive over the past month. Expect Chambers to have his team ready to go believing they can pull off an upset.
- Gus Johnson-Play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson will be calling this game. This is significant for a few reasons, the first being that Gus is all-around awesome. More importantly, the games he broadcasts typically end up going down to the wire. Hopefully this is the case tomorrow. Gus will also not be doing any games once the NCAA tournament begins next week, so this could be one of the final opportunities to hear him this season.
There you have it. Part of that might be a stretch. Penn State has not won a Big Ten game away from the Bryce Jordan Center in almost an entire calendar year. Indiana enters on a four-game winning streak and has four players averaging double figures on the season.
The chance of an upset may be slim, but the great thing about March and college basketball is that chances always exist and upsets happen.