Penn State visits the Kohl Center on Tuesday to take on Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions are fresh off of a 19-point rout of Indiana, while the Badgers are reeling a bit having lost 3 straight. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Tyler Wahl Update
The big news for Wisconsin fans is Tyler Wahl is expected to return to the lineup after a 3-game absence. His scoring presence has been sorely missed, as the Badgers did not top 70 points one time without him.
Strengths of Penn State
Penn State’s offense is centered around the 3-point shot. Shooting from downtown accounts for 44.1% of their offense and they rank 4th in the nation in 3-pointers made per game (11.1). Their primary marksman, Andrew Funk, is a Bucknell transfer in his first year at Happy Valley. He averages 12.2 PPG while shooting 42.1% from long range. As a team, they lead the Big Ten with a 39.5% 3-point percentage.
However, the offense runs through the 6’4″ guard Jalen Pickett. Initially starting his career at Sienna, Pickett is in his second season with the Nittany Lions. Virtually a triple-double waiting to happen, he averages 17.6 PPG, 7.4 assists, and 7.4 rebounds. Seth Lundy is the last Nittany Lion to average double digits a game, with 14.4 PPG.
How to exploit Penn State
Their biggest weakness is their interior game. Penn State lacks a true big man as their 2 F/C’s are both freshmen who come off the bench and play sparingly. Steven Crowl has shown great improvement offensively in the last 5 games before the debacle against Indiana. I look for him to have a big game and notch his second double-double of the season.
Wisconsin has a solid advantage when it comes to the defensive side of the court. The rebounding deficiency that has plagued the Badgers all year should not be an issue this game, as the Nittany Lions are equally weak on the boards. Penn State (-3.0) is slightly better than Wisconsin (-3.8) in rebounding differential.
History and conclusion
History has been incredibly kind to the Badgers, as they own a 2-24 record against the Nittany Lions at home. One of Wisconsin’s more recent losses to Penn State was in the Big Ten tournament in 2011. That 36-33 loss single-handedly set back modern basketball offense 100 years. The most recent match-up between these 2 squads was last February, a home 51-49 victory for Wisconsin.
If Wahl returns to action as scheduled, Wisconsin’s frontcourt should overpower the 4 guard set that Penn State usually employs. With the Nittany Lion’s long-range capabilities, they are never out of a contest. But some of their 3-point statistics are inflated by the game against Indiana where they shot 18-31 from beyond the arc. They also went 12-24 from downtown against Illinois. If Wisconsin shows up with a solid defensive effort, and Wahl is able to resume his offensive prowess, I see the Badgers winning a hard-fought contest to stop their 3 game skid.