By Ben Hoyt
Penn State’s three-point woes
Penn State’s number one strength as a team is shooting beyond the arc. According to BartTorvik.com, Penn State is 13th in the country from three-point-range at a solid average of 40.4 percent; and they aren’t afraid to pull the trigger. In today’s game against Michigan State, they took 18 three point attempts in just the first half. When the Nittany Lions are hot from three point territory they are hard to stop. They started out hot early against the Spartans and were up 16-6 early on in the game, but it wouldn’t last. Towards the end of the first half, Penn State had gone on a three-minute scoring drought, which allowed Michigan State to hit some threes of their own and get quick buckets inside to tie the game at the half.
Penn State has one of the smaller lineups in the Big Ten. Usually Penn State runs a 4 guard lineup with either Caleb Dorsey or Kebba Njie in the middle. With so many talented shooters such as Andrew Funk and Myles Dread, it is paramount that they take advantage from deep whenever they can. While Michigan State took not nearly as many threes, they were 50% 6-12 with 6:28 left in the second half while Penn State at the same time was 8-23 at 34%.
Battle of Physicality
Micah Shrewsberry had a funny “three is more than two” line earlier in the season, but its possible that Penn State relies too heavily on the three-ball. A balanced basketball team has many outlets of attack. When watching film it will come increasingly apparent to coaches that Penn State’s offensive focus will be from beyond the arc. That was the big adjustment that Michigan State made during the game. Instead of sitting back and letting the Nittany Lions have favorable shots, they switched to man defense and played them out beyond the arc. Once Big Ten teams catch on to this it is going to make Penn State’s job increasingly difficult, as they are not going to have the open looks they are used to getting. Penn State does not use the post up offense often. If they do go inside it is a drive in layup or a floater from the key. So, when Michigan State closed in, they were forced to take awkward layups, usually resulting in a miss.
Defensively, Penn State has the same problem. With a four-guard offense it is extremely difficult to get rebounds. Kebba Njie is the only player who regularly plays that is above 6 ‘8. He only picked up six rebounds in the game, which is going to cause problems because now you are relying on shorter guards to carry the rest of the load. Jalen Pickett did a great job of that today collecting 17, but this may not always be the case against more athletic Big Ten squads.
Watch out for Michigan State
Tom Izzo and his squad could not have a harder schedule put in front of them this early in the season. They drew Gonzaga, Kentucky, Villanova, Alabama and Oregon all early on. They never got blown out, played everyone close and had a very respectable 5-4 record to start. They have four starters that average over double digit points per game, and will be extremely dangerous to compete with in the conference. Do not be surprised come March that they are one of the favorites to win the Big Ten Conference.