Sure they lost to Bucknell, but hey that happens to everyone at some point. They had a decent trip to Brooklyn. Beating St. John’s in OT and losing to Ole Miss by a few. Pat Chambers has done a nice job of trying to build this team. Tim Frazier has come back really well from his injury last year. D.J. Newbill has been outstanding. They have a very talented backcourt — on offense.
Their weaknesses are just as obvious. The defense is lacking. They’ll gamble on steals — as much because they struggle to guard players as by design. Not much of a frontcourt. And they lack depth. Frazier, Newbill and Ross Taylor all are averaging over 33 minutes a game. And this is just 8 games in, with a decent amount of scrub teams on the schedule. Don’t be surprised if Frazier and Newbill are out there for nearly the entire 40 minutes (barring foul trouble). Though, as you would expect, their coach downplays the minutes issue.
Penn State shoots 3s more frequently than Pitt 38.5% vs. 30.5% of FGA, with a slightly better 3-point shooting percentage 38.9% to 37.9%. Their tempo isn’t particularly faster than Pitt. A slight bit faster — 67.0 to 65.5 in Adjusted Tempo.
It is kind of staggering how much of a 2-man team Penn State is. Newbill and Frazier have accounted for 199 of the 455 FGA (43.7% of the team’s FGA). They have taken over half of the Nits FTs this year. The pressure will be on Pitt’s backcourt to shut them down and make other players beat them.
Those “other players” will likely be forwards Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor. Taylor in particular is intriguing as a 6-7 sophomore forward who leads PSU in 3-pointers and is shooting at a 40% clip.
Pitt doesn’t have to do anything it hasn’t been doing to win this game. Mix up the man defense with zone to keep Penn State off-balance and control the penetration from the guards. Force the turnovers with active hands and get out on transition for the easy baskets. On offense, working it inside and force Penn State to play defense more than they want to.
The game Duquesne gave Pitt will probably help — well, at least that will be the narrative with a win. Lose, and it becomes how Duquesne exposed some big flaws that PSU exploited.
The Geno Thorpe-Mike Young storyline is nice, but other than being teammates and friends, there isn’t much else. Thorpe plays lightly and may barely see the court in this game.
Both sides like to say how they’d like the teams to play each other annually, but I don’t really buy it. It does practically zilch for recruiting. It generates no buzz outside the Commonwealth — and sometimes not even there. Personally, I think the basketball series would be ideal to be played in Philly. Then it would matter more for recruiting.