When: Saturday, December 12, 2009
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, PA
Time and TV: 7pm, ESPN2
The 7-1 Hokies have a big basketball game on Saturday night at Penn State.
Tech is already off to the best start of the Seth Greenberg era, and a win over
the Nittany Lions would put the Hokies at 8-1 with three very winnable home
games coming up on the schedule.
Virginia Tech is one of only five ACC teams with one loss. Everyone else has
been beaten at least twice. Tech is one of only four ACC teams ranked in the Top
50 of the RPI. On paper, thanks to their 7-1 record and #38 ranking in the RPI,
the Hokies have as good a shot at making the NCAA tournament as any other team
in the ACC not named Duke or North Carolina.
Those chances will decrease greatly in the event of a loss to Penn State.
Despite being the defending NIT Champions, the Nittany Lions are off to a tough
start this season. They are 6-3, with losses to Temple (45-42), UNC Wilmington
(80-69) and Tulane (63-60). Temple is a very good team that also beat Virginia
Tech, but UNC Wilmington and Tulane both have losing records and are not ranked
in the Top 150 of the RPI.
The highest ranked team in the RPI that Penn State has beaten is Davidson,
who is 1-6 overall and ranked #166. They also got a 69-66 road win at Virginia.
Overall, Penn State is ranked #212 in the RPI with the #311 SOS.
Maryland-Baltimore County, Penn, and Davidson, all of whom have fallen to PSU,
have combined to win just one game. That hurts the Penn State strength of
schedule quite a bit.
Because of that schedule, we really don’t know how good Penn State is. They
are better than they played in losses to UNC Wilmington and Tulane, but they
have no quality wins on the season. Of course, you can say the same thing about
Virginia Tech. The Hokies have no bad losses, but they also haven’t beaten a
team in the Top 100.
State Starting Lineup
Talor Battle is the player to watch. An All-Big Ten selection a year ago, he is
a very good all-around player. He can get to the basket and score, and he can
knock down the three-pointer. Battle is shooting just 25% from the outside this
year, but he shoots it a lot. He has 59 attempts from three-point range. He’s a
better outside shooter than that percentage indicates.
Battle’s real strength is getting to the glass. He has 55 free throw attempts
on the season, and he has made 80% of them. The real key to stopping Penn State
is to keep Battle from penetrating and kicking the ball back out, because the
Nittany Lions have a number of players who can knock down the open jumper. If
the Hokies keep Battle from penetrating, they’ll have a good chance to win.
Dorenzo Hudson has experience shutting down players similar to Battle, such as
Miami’s Jack McClinton, so expect him to draw this assignment on Saturday night.
David Jackson and Jeff Brooks are two solid combo forwards for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions don’t have a consistent #2 scorer, but guys like Jackson and
Brooks are capable of scoring in double figures on any night. They can knock
down the open jumper from the outside, and they are big enough to mix it up on
the inside as well.
Penn State’s top inside player is forward Andrew Jones. At 6-10, Jones is a
wide body who can create space on the inside. He is the top rebounder on the
team, narrowly holding the advantage over point guard Talor Battle. Jones is a
solid offensive rebounder, and the Hokies have to box him out.
Tim Frazier is a dangerous freshman who has a lot of court speed. He is a
point guard as well, and with Frazier and Battle on the court at the same time,
the Nittany Lions have possibly the quickest backcourt in the Big Ten.
Chris Babb (6-5, 215, So.) is Penn State’s top player off the bench, and he’s
actually started four games this season. Besides Battle, Babb is the only other
Penn State player who can be considered a prolific three-point shooter. Babb is
17-of-52 (32.7%) on the season. Though other players on the team have better
shooting percentages than Battle and Babb, these two players have the green
light because they are capable of getting hot. They don’t have to be wide open
to knock down the outside shot. That being said, the Nittany Lions don’t have
anyone who can be considered a “great” shooter, and that sometimes
hurts them. Check out what they’ve done offensively in their three losses.
State in Losses
Talor Battle had very poor shooting games in all three outings, and he did not
score in double figures against Temple. If you stop him, you can stop the entire
Penn State team. However, if he gets hot, then the Nittany Lions have the
ability to hang with just about anybody.
This Penn State team has talent, though like most Big Ten teams, they aren’t
particularly athletic. The Nittany Lions have just 15 blocks through nine games.
As a comparison, the Hokies blocked 15 shots in one game against VMI.
This game will be played in the Bryce Jordan Center, an impressive arena that
seats more than 15,000 fans. Penn State is a perfect 4-0 at home this year. They
are 1-1 on the road, and 1-2 on neutral sites. The Nittany Lions have played
much better at home, and they shoot the ball much better on their own home
This will be a tough game for the Hokies to win. Tech is the better team in
Cassell Coliseum, and probably on a neutral site as well, but at Penn State
things will be dicey. This is a “White Out” game for the Nittany
Lions, and fans will be fired up on a Saturday night. If the Hokies can pull
this one off, they should have a lot of confidence heading into home games with
Charleston Southern, Maryland-Baltimore County and Longwood.