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The last time Wisconsin and Penn State met on the basketball court was March 11, 2011. A day that will live in infamy. The two teams combined for 15% shooting behind the arc, 33% shooting overall, 11 free throw attempts and only 69 points.
Fast forward to the present. Penn State has four new starters from that 2011 team that dared to dance and is stuck in the Big Ten's cellar. The Badgers have three new starters of their own. A five-game winning streak has brought respect and hype just about within No. 19 Wisconsin's grasp again. It would be a shame to look a head to the epic weekend matchup with Ohio State and trip up in State College.
Eric Gibson is the most ardent Penn State basketball fan I know, and has been involved in so many different PSU blogging projects you'd think he was a dot-com era venture capitalist. He's worked his way into the big time over at Black Shoe Diaries. Today he dishes on Nittany Lion hoops, while I returned the favor at their place.
B5Q: Tim Frazier has been outstanding this season and you can't help but draw comparisons to the one-man band Talor Battle was at Penn State for several years. Compare and contrast the two players for us.
BSD: Tim is much more of a pure point guard than Talor ever was. Talor was a combo guard at the college level whose main attribute was finding ways to put the ball in the hoop. Tim's first two seasons showed his quality distribution skills and unselfishness. Tim has a greater edge in athleticism, but Talor had much greater range. It is funny how they've both experienced great change in their junior years. Tim was the only main contributor left from last year's NCAA tournament team, while Talor was the only one left from PSU's 3-headed attack that won an NIT Championship (alongside Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle). Without the help, Talor had to involve his teammates as much as he could to keep from teams keying on him defensively. Frazier has had to do the opposite and take command as the one consistent scoring option on the team. The parallels between their two careers are very similar, but they are two completely different players.
B5Q: Outside of Frazier, Badger fans may not recognize a single name on the Penn State roster. We know Nebraska better than you guys. Who (besides Frazier) will likely make an impression on Wisconsin?
BSD: Everyone has been inconsistent so there's no telling who will have an impact for Penn State. Jermaine Marshall has the best offensive game of anyone outside of Frazier, but he's really struggled shooting the last 5 games. Cammeron Woodyard might be familiar as PSU's lone senior, although I don't recall him ever having a big influence in any Wisconsin games. Woodyard shoots much better at home, so he could have a big night. Outside of those two, PSU will graciously accept any scoring contributions from anyone. Matt Glover will be a terror on the boards and on defense, though.
B5Q: Despite their struggles, the Nittany Lions have toppled a couple of upper-tier B1G teams (Illinois and Purdue) at home. Tell us what went right for Penn State in those two games that they will try to duplicate on Tuesday night against Wisconsin.
BSD: They played defense in those two games. In all seven of their conference losses, opponents have scored over 1.0 PPP. In those two wins, however, PSU shut down the Purdue and Illinois offenses. Purdue was completely thwarted all around, while Illinois seemingly fell into their habit of taking themselves out of the game with poor decisions and lazy passes. Both teams are a great matchup for PSU, unlike Wisconsin, who will eventually force a rotation breakdown somewhere in the possession. Penn State might also throw out a 1-2-2 press in an attempt to force turnovers and speed up the game a bit. If that is successful in any way, it would be a huge help for PSU.
B5Q: If nothing else, new head coach Pat Chambers has at least infused an embattled athletic department with enthusiasm. He's scored big on the recruiting trail already, but his on-court results have been disappointing thus far. Much of that is to be expected early on, but when will folks be able to tell if this was the right hire that is going to really move the meter for PSU basketball?
BSD: We all think it's the right hire already. This season was lost a long time ago, and most reasonable fans accepted that. No one particularly cares about the wins and losses, but honestly, this team has exceeded expectations so far even with the paltry record. I personally love the attention and passion this team finally shows on defense. I've also been impressed with the spacing and motion of Chambers' offense. They've been generating good shots more often than not. Unfortunately we just don't have anyone that can hit them now. With the recruiting already on another level, some think it's only a matter of time. That might sound a little ridiculous, but it's easy to fall in love with the enthusiasm and energy this guy displays.
B5Q: The Nittany Lions have had a heck of a time scoring this season, ranking near the bottom of the country in effective FG%. Is it due to inexperience, a new offense or straight up lack of talent?
BSD: Lack of experience, confidence, and talent. As mentioned, good shots have been taken. But for whatever reason, they can't make them. The talent isn't there in regards to players creating their own shot. Only Frazier and Marshall are capable in this department, but neither are particularly good. Penn State's big men (Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak) have shown some flashes of post moves inside, but they have also looked weak against stronger foes.
B5Q: Has Chambers been fiddling with the rotation a lot or is it clear who he wants to go to battle with by now?
BSD: Nearly everyone has been given an opportunity to play. The rotation is constantly changing because no one is consistent, and we've had some injuries (to Billy Oliver and Trey Lewis). Walk-on Nick Colella has entered the mix and has performed admirably. Despite being down those two guys, Penn State still goes 8-deep.
B5Q: On that same note, which of the young guys have the brightest future from what you've seen this season?
BSD: They all have their moments, but it's hard to say one's definitely better than the other. Trey Lewis probably has the best potential as a scorer, but he's had a tough freshmen year and now he's suffered a stress fracture in his back. Ross Travis is athletic and tough on the boards, but needs a ton of work on his defense. Matt Glover is solid all-around except on offense, although he has had moments these last few games. The guy who likely has the brightest future is glued to the bench because of transfer rules. D.J. Newbill (Ed. -- yes, that D.J. Newbill) has been a terror in practice after transferring from Southern Mississippi over the summer. Some consider him the second best player on the team right now. He'll be a redshirt sophomore next season.
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