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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Penn State

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Gophers look to secure undefeated homestand

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, I’ve got some good news and bad news. The bad news is that Penn State is good this year. The good news is that they are still Penn State, and have scored 110 points total in their last two games.

The Gophers notched a huge victory on Sunday, taking down the Michigan Wolverines in a thriller, which was important not only for their tournament resume but to prove to the rest of us that they could actually do it. With the win, we at least know that beating Ohio State wasn’t a fluke and they can actually, legitimately defend their home floor against good teams.

That’s a great thing to know with Penn State coming to town, because beating the Nittany Lions is exactly what Minnesota needs to do if they want to stay on track for enough wins for a tournament berth. Aside from dates with Michigan State and Maryland, the Gophers effectively need to win each of their home games the rest of the season unless they want to do some major work on the road to make up for it.

And it continues with Penn State on Wednesday night.

Essentials:

Opponent:

Penn State Nittany Lions (2-3, 12-4)

Date and Time:

Wednesday, Jan. 14 @ 8 p.m. CT

Location:

Williams Arena

TV:

BTN

Radio:

KFAN 100.3-FM

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Tell me more about the opponent.

Minnesota owns this series, and is 28-10 over the life of it, while being on a 4-game winning streak. Penn State got off to a quick 12-2 start this season, which included wins over Maryland, Iowa and Georgetown, but the wheels have fallen off the last two games, where they dropped ugly ones to Rutgers and Wisconsin. Against the Badgers they scored just 49 points, a season low, on 33% shooting. It wasn’t good.

Have the Nittany Lions turned into a pumpkin? They’ve tumbled out of the Top 25, but let’s not take them too lightly.

Lamar Stevens leads the way, averaging more than 16 points per game, and can score in a couple different ways, but he hasn’t exploded for 20 or more points since November. Mike Watkins is also to be feared down low. He ranks fifth in the country in blocks per game, and leads the team in rebounding with 8.5 boards per game. He should give Daniel Oturu a challenge on the block.

Penn State is a terrific defensive team and tends to disrupt teams closer to the basket. They lead the conference in blocks and steals per game. However, they can be taken advantage of from outside, and if Payton Willis, Gabe Kalscheur or Marcus Carr can hit their shots they should have a good night.

Predictions

After a win over Michigan at home it feels like the Gophers should be expected to beat any team on any given night. Daniel Oturu is a maniac and Marcus Carr was historically steady (21 points, 12 assists, 0 TOs) on Sunday. Minnesota now has the 19th most efficient offense according to KenPom.

Speaking of KenPom, they like Minnesota in this one by three, and I tend to agree. I think the Gophers sweep the homestand.