Tim Aydin from Black Shoe Diaries was kind enough to answer some of my questions about Penn State basketball. If you read below, get to know Penn State’s top players, strengths and weaknesses, and more.
1. Lamar Stevens has been the guy this year, replacing Tony Carr, does he continue to do so against Nebraska? Or is it someone else that’s the “guy” in the matchup?
No doubt, Lamar will have to be “the guy” if Penn State is to have any hope of pulling the upset on the road, but he will need a few of his teammates to also be “guys.” Mike Watkins needs to be the rebounding, shot-blocking, low-post moving machine that he was last season, Josh Reaves will need to be the “glue guy” who creates turnovers and also gets buckets, and the freshman guard duo of Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread will have to light it up from the floor while making sure to be smart about their shot selection (this has particularly been an issue with Bolton).
2. What are some of Penn State’s strength and weaknesses?
Defensively, they have been pretty solid, ranking 19th in KenPom’s Adjusted Defense ratings. It’s the offensive side of the ball that is a complete clusterf**k. It seems like there is little strategy aside from chuck-and-duck from the perimeter and trying to force-feed Lamar the ball in hopes that he will make something happen. It’s a big reason why PSU has underachieved, thus far.
3. Head Coach Pat Chambers was suspensed last game, how will that impact Penn State’s players against Nebraska?
Considering how even more lost and disjointed the team looked when Keith Urgo was acting head coach, having Pat back on the sidelines will be a very welcome sight. It sure can’t hurt to have that familiarity in the team huddle during timeouts and yelling instructions during the game. I’m doubtful that it’ll be the difference between a win and loss, since Nebraska is likely to win big at home, anyway.
4. Do you see Penn State cracking a Top 10 spot this year in the Big Ten to avoid a play-in game during the Big Ten tournament?
While it would only take a couple of wins for PSU to get out of the bottom four, it’s a pretty daunting road ahead after Nebraska, as they play host to Michigan State and a surging Iowa squad, followed by a road trip to face a solid Minnesota team. There’s a very good chance they will be 0-8 in conference play when they host Rutgers on the last Saturday in January. Once you’ve gotten yourself in an 0-8 hole, it’s quite difficult to climb out of, so I’ll be very pleasantly surprised if PSU avoids having to play in the opening round of the B1G tournament.
5. Who will be the X-Factor for Penn State to help get a valuable road win in Pinnacle Bank Arena?
PSU needs its backcourt to light it up and take some of the pressure off Lamar and Mike having to do everything by themselves, so keep an eye on Bolton and Dread and how they fare. If neither one of them is feeling it, it could be a very long night in Lincoln once again for PSU.
6. What will be the final score and why? If you need help choosing the winner, just look at what happened last season when Penn State came to Lincoln....
I expect another bloodbath in Lincoln for the Pat Chambers Farewell Tour. PSU may keep it close for a half, thanks to their defense, but I have no faith in this team from an offensive standpoint. I can envision James Palmer, Isaac Copleland, and Co. taking over and leading the way in yet another blowout win. I’ll say 71-54 Nebraska.
Thanks Tim! It seems like we’re on the same page for the final score, although I expect a much bigger deficit.