Penn State Proving It’s More Than a Two-Man Show

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 29th, 2013

With its win Tuesday night, Penn State upped its record on the young season to 5-1. As they head into their weekend mini-tournament in Brooklyn tonight, they will be tested by the likes of St. John’s and either Ole Miss or Georgia Tech. These are all “power conference” teams, but they are all beatable. If the Nittany Lions want to continue the roll that they’ve gotten on this season, they will need to continue to get contributions from their starting frontcourt. Players like Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack are not household names outside of State College, but they have all been huge factors in the team’s play as of late.

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

Brandon Taylor has gotten off to a hot shooting start for Penn State thus far (Jesse Johnson, USA Today).

In its victory over La Salle, Penn State had all five starters in double figures. With a pass-first type of point guard getting them great looks with his dishing prowess, Taylor, Jack, and Travis have shown they can take advantage and hit shots. While none of these three is very physically imposing, they all have certain useful skill sets that they’ve displayed in the early going. Travis is a banger and a slasher, leading the team in rebounds at a 7.3 RPG clip. He has a nice mid-range game and can get to the basket, but his main role is that of someone to do a lot of the heavy lifting on the boards. Taylor went for 25 points in the team’s lopsided win against Longwood, mostly on the strength of his 5-of-9 shooting from deep. He too showed in that game and in others that he can knock down an open shot from mid-range, and displays athleticism and length defensively. Taylor is 11th in the B1G in block rate (5.78%) going into Brooklyn, and has a high of four in one game. Jack has a season high of 18 points, and while he tends to get pushed around a some in the low block, he works well in a high pick-and-roll situation with Frazier. Jack has also become a big fan of taking three-pointers from the top of the key, which will at times bring a center or power forward away from the basket and allow the others to crash the offensive boards.

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Big Ten M5: 11.21.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 21st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Thad Matta thought he had a team that could play spectacular defense this year, and holding Marquette to 35 points on Saturday certainly proved it will be this team’s strength. What may be scary, though, is some Ohio State players think it can get better. Shannon Scott told reporters he would rank it “as an A playing that game (against Marquette). If we get to A-plus, we can beat all the best teams out there.” With his veteran squad, led by the well-known defensive stalwart Aaron Craft, Matta has players that know how to rotate and play help defense. Even with an offense that is still shaky (the 52 points against Marquette and 63 against American last night indicate that), if the Buckeyes can get to an “A-plus” level it may not matter.
  2. Mitch McGary is still working his way back and John Beilein plans to continue to ease him back into games. After playing 22 minutes in Michigan’s loss against Iowa State over the weekend, McGary will likely come off the bench in the Wolverines first game at the Puerto Rico Tip-off against Long Beach State today. His play is needed for Michigan to reach similar heights as it did last season, but as Beilein indicated in the article, it could take up to a month before McGary is completely back up to speed with conditioning and feeling comfortable with everyone on the court. The quicker that happens, the better for Michigan.
  3. Everyone is talking about Wisconsin’s scoring output this season (even if Bo Ryan and the Badgers players indicated before the season the team will be playing faster) and it’s 103-point game with Frank Kaminsky setting the single-game scoring record with 43 points. What’s been overlooked in the Badgers getting more baskets, though, is how this team has been giving up more as well. North Dakota shot 54.5 percent as it scored 83 points against Wisconsin. It may not be a huge issue for Wisconsin if it can continue to score at this rate, but North Dakota had players getting dribble penetration and hitting 3-pointers. Part of the issue could be inexperience on the inside and go away with time, but for a team that has been known for slow play and defense under Ryan, it certainly seems like an issue that could manifest itself later.
  4. It hasn’t always been easy for Purdue this season like it was last night in its 83-55 win over Eastern Illinois. That isn’t necessarily the worst thing according to Matt Painter, who likes that his team has had to face some adversity in its 1-point win over Northern Kentucky and 4-point win over Rider. It has also helped him see how strong his entire line-up is in pressure situations. This experimentation with rotations and different player groups is helping Purdue to build some depth for later this year. With the new rules and fouls increasing so far, it certainly helps Purdue to have players like Jay Simpson, Bryson Scott, and Sterling Carter getting meaningful minutes now should they be called upon for large stretches during the Big Ten season.
  5. Everyone knew about Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill coming into this season for Penn State. Well, at least everyone following Big Ten basketball new of the Nittany Lions backcourt duo, but these two haven’t been the only ones scoring so far. As Penn State has gotten off to a 3-1 start, including a solid 79-72 win over A-10 competitor LaSalle, it has gotten contributions from multiple players on its roster. Donovon Jack, Ross Travis, and Brandon Taylor contributed more than half of the team’s points in the LaSalle win and are making sure Frazier and Newbill don’t have to carry this team. For Penn State to be competitive in the B1G it will need this trend to continue. Certainly Frazier will still be the go-to player, but a solid starting cast surrounding them could help pull Penn State from cellar-dweller to middle of the pack.
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Mitch McGary Impressive, More Thoughts on Michigan’s Win Over Penn State

Posted by KTrahan on March 14th, 2013

Kevin Trahan writes for the Big Ten Microsite and covers Northwestern sports for InsideNU.com. Follow him on Twitter at @k_trahan for Big Ten Tournament updates.

Michigan is off to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament for a date with Wisconsin after an 83-66 win over Penn State in the first round. The Wolverines’ struggles this season with the Nittany Lions continued in the first half, as they led by just two at halftime, but they pulled away in the second half for an easy win. Five UM players scored in double figures, led by Trey Burke with 21.

Here are three thoughts from courtside:

  1. Mitch McGary is going to be special: Big men typically take longer to develop as freshmen than guards to, so it’s no surprise that Mitch McGary wasn’t the most “fab” of Michigan’s star freshmen in the early going. However, over the past month, McGary has shown vast improvements and has arguably been the Wolverines’ best young player over that time span. McGary continued that dominance in the first half on Thursday afternoon, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds in 13 minutes of action. He had just one more rebound and no points in the second half, but the game broke open quickly and he wasn’t needed. McGary’s improvement is a great sign for a Michigan frontcourt that will need someone to step up next year. He’ll be helpful in this year’s UM postseason run, but next year is when he’ll ultimately be able to become a star, rather than just a role player. He has all the tools for stardom — he’s aggressive on the boards and has a great knack for the basket on second-chance opportunities — and as he gains experience, he’ll become even more of a threat.

    Michigan head coach John Beilein reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Penn State. (AP)

    Michigan head coach John Beilein reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Penn State. (AP)

  2. A good tune-up for Michigan: It’s kind of hard to believe that just a month ago, Michigan was the #1 team in the nation. Now, the Wolverines couldn’t even get a bye on the first day of the Big Ten Tournament. John Beilein’s team has struggled through a number of tough losses this season, none tougher than last Sunday’s home loss to Illinois, when a bad roll on the rim cost them a big win and a higher seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That can really mess with your psyche. In a way, Thursday’s result at United Center was the perfect one for the Wolverines as they enter postseason play. It offered some adversity — Penn State began the game up 14-3 — but once things settled down, it helped the Wolverines build their confidence. They were effective from beyond the arc and got the ball inside, the latter of which they’ve struggled to do down the stretch. Friday’s game against Wisconsin will be a much bigger test, but Thursday’s game against Michigan couldn’t have gone much better for Beilein and company.
  3. Penn State’s future is bright: Penn State just might be the best 2-16 conference team in history. Being the best at being the worst isn’t exactly encouraging in itself, but the Nittany Lions are vastly improved since the beginning of the year, and that’s without first team All-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier. They own recent wins against Michigan and Northwestern and also nearly took down Wisconsin and Iowa. They’re starting to get more confident, and next year could be the year they put it all together. Penn State could potentially have the best backcourt in the Big Ten in 2013-14. Frazier will be back, along with D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, who are both much better now than they were in January. The frontcourt, which has been a weakness all season, has started to improve. Forward Ross Travis has really started to come into his own, and he posted 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Wolverines. Four of those rebounds came in the early going, when he was arguably the best player on the floor for a stretch. As the pieces start to come together and players continue to improve, look out for Pat Chambers’ squad. Things are definitely looking up, even coming off a year with just two conference wins.
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Big Ten M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 12th, 2012

  1. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery is very optimistic about this third year in the Big Ten. He strongly believes that the depth on his roster will put Iowa back on the map and ready to contend for a postseason bid to the NCAA Tournament. Tough to disagree with the coach because returning wings Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White averaged 11.5 PPG and 11.1 PPG, respectively, last season. Another wing Zach McCabe should increase his production from 7.8 PPG. In addition to the returnees, Iowa’s top 25 recruiting class consisting of center Adam Woodbury will be an important part of the rotation. Depth is key for McCaffery’s offense which is designed to push the tempo of the game and consistently attack the basket. Iowa’s 65.8 possessions per game was the best during the Big Ten season in 2011-12.
  2. Another coach who is trying to push the tempo of the game is Illinois’ John Groce. The first-year coach would prefer to play an uptempo game but doesn’t believe he has the personnel yet to execute it. According to Groce, Illinois needs multiple guards who can comfortably handle the ball and strive for consistent movement. Returning guards Tracy Abrams (4.3 PPG) and Joseph Bertrand (6.5 PPG) have been working on their ball-handling skills but it might take some time for Illinois to reap the benefits on the court. The Illini averaged 63.6 possessions per game during the conference season but ranked towards the bottom of the league with a 20.9% turnover rate. The tempo will certainly increase in Champaign this season but the fans can only hope for the team to be more competitive than the 2011-12 disaster.
  3. Penn State fans don’t necessarily pay attention to basketball until bowl season is done. But there are several reasons to be excited about Pat Chambers’ team this season and Onward State lists five of them. Senior guard Tim Frazier (18.8 PPG and 6.2 APG) is obviously the best player on the team and arguably the best guard in the Big Ten. But the development of a couple underclassmen – Ross Travis and Jermaine Marshall – will be key for Chambers in his rotation. Ross, who was a true freshman last year, averaged only 4.4 PPG but showed flashes of brilliance during certain plays. Marshall should build upon his 10.8 PPG to play second fiddle to Frazier on the offensive end. Nittany Lions fans don’t have high expectations but certainly hope for improvement over last year’s performance as Chambers continues to build a solid foundation in State College.
  4. After a four-year hiatus, Purdue will bring back the Midnight Madness event to Mackey Arena tonight and the players are excited to resume this tradition on their home court. This is a very important event for the Boilermakers because there are several new faces on the team. Forwards Jay Simpson and A.J. Hammons hope to add some size to the frontcourt and will have ample opportunity to earn playing time. Another freshman guard, Ronnie Johnson, will join two other Johnsons – Terone (9.2 PPG) and Anthony (5.4 PPG) in the backcourt. Head coach Matt Painter is also hoping that the event will help with the recruitment of 2013 player the Boilermakers want, Bryson Scott. The event will incorporate both men’s and women’s basketball team along with the football team who will host Wisconsin on Saturday.
  5. Purdue’s in-state rival Indiana will have their own event, “Hoosier Hysteria,” on October 20 in Assembly Hall. ESPN SportsCenter anchor and a former IU graduate Sage Steele will emcee the annual event. The event will also benefit charities as fans are encouraged to bring canned food items for the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. Both the women’s basketball coach, Curt Miller, and fifth-year head coach, Tom Crean, will address the fans and introduce their respective teams. There is plenty to celebrate in Bloomington nowadays as the Hoosiers are ranked #1 in the preseason polls by most publications. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller (15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG) has been the center of media attention as he has been a consensus preseason All-American pick and may end up being a top five pick in next year’s NBA Draft Lottery as well.
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Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Penn State

Posted by jnowak on June 1st, 2012

There were a few flashes of positivity — beating Illinois and Purdue, holding high-scoring Iowa to 64 points — but when those are the high-water marks, it can’t be considered much of a success for Penn State last season. The Nittany Lions finished dead last (they won just four Big Ten games) in a competitive conference during coach Pat Chambers‘ first season, but the cupboard was awfully bare when he arrived. He had just one returning starter (Tim Frazier) and two total players with any real contributing experience. There’s certain to be improvement next year. But before that time comes, let’s take a look back:

Tim Frazier was one of the few bright spots for Penn State this year. (CDC Photos/Christopher Weddle)

  • In a nutshell: Simply put, there just wasn’t a whole lot to work with on this team. In a year in which the Big Ten was as deep as ever, Penn State had as few weapons as any team in the conference. Frazier (more on him shortly) put the team on his back practically every game for a group that consistently struggled to make shots and score.
  • Overachievement: First off, one thing that should be noted is that the Nittany Lions finished at the top in the conference in offensive rebounding. This is all the more puzzling considering Frazier was the team’s leading rebounder at 4.7 RPG. Beyond that, freshman Ross Travis pulled down 4.2 boards per game. Back to Frazier, the junior guard may have defined overachievement more than any other player in the conference last year. With the departure of Talor Battle, Frazier filled in admirably and saw a remarkable scoring leap from 6.3 PPG to 18.8 PPG. He was named to the All-Big Ten First Team after finishing second in the conference in scoring, first in assists, and second in steals. He’ll definitely be a player to watch closely next year.
  • Underachievement: Team-wise, it was the offense that really hurt Penn State last year. They featured an All-Big Ten player, but only one other player (Jermaine Marshall) who averaged in double figures (10.8 PPG). As a team, the Nittany Lions finished last in field goal percentage and 11th in free throw percentage, scoring offense and three-point shooting. The Big Ten is a defensive-minded league, but you have to put the ball in the basket more often than that to win games.
  • Defining moment: In all honesty, if there was any stretch during the course of the season that really defined Penn State’s season, it was the final 12 games, in which the Nittany Lions won just twice. Give them credit — they beat lowly Nebraska and defensively-inept Iowa — but in a year where every team in the conference had the potential to be really tough on any given night, Penn State just didn’t have the goods to stack up. To further epitomize the team’s season during that stretch, Frazier had double figures in each game (and at least 16 points in 11 of those 12), but it was rarely enough.
  • Final grade: Considering what Chambers was given this year, there could not have been very high expectations in State College. He seems to have the right personality and style to bring this program to a higher level, and Frazier has one more year to help the club improve. But there was just not enough to work with this season. Final grade: D.
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