This is the time of year where I wish my TV had Picture-In-Picture capability. You see, PSU’s hoops squad will tip off against Georgia Tech tonight @ 7:30 PM ET on ESPN2, which will be shortly followed by CBS’s annual airing of Rudolph at 8 PM ET…At least there’s a guarantee that one of those viewings will be a pleasant one. And in case any of you were about to ask: No, there will not be another running diary on Rudolph. Trust me, doing it once was good enough.
As you all know, the Fighting DeChellises are taking part in the 10th annual “ACC/Big Ten Challenge” which has been anything but a challenge for the ACC, being that they’ve won this fake Land Grant Trophy-quality contest every year since its inception. Even though this year’s series is tied at 3 games apiece, Indiana and Michigan State have to go up against Wake Forest and UNC respectively so yeah, go ahead and mark those in the “loss” column for the Big Ten. This means that barring any shockers by IU or MSU, it’s up to PSU, Northwestern (home against Florida State), and Michigan (@ Maryland) to pick up the slack and carry the Big Ten out on top for the first time ever…Seriously, this thing should be banished to the “Island of Misfit Tournaments.”
Action shot from a previous Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Taking a quick look at Georgia Tech, it appears as if they do the bulk of their scoring in the frontcourt as three of their four double-digit scorers are forwards. Gani Lawal leads the way for the aforementioned frontcourt, averaging a double-double thus far (19.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg). The backcourt, while depleted by the losses of D’Andre Bell (spinal stenosis) and Lewis Clinch (academic struggles) still features quality players such as Iman Shumpert (the other double-digit scorer) and Maurice Miller (team leader in assists, 6.7 apg). For once in my life though, I have the dubious distinction of favoring PSU’s backcourt over an ACC team’s backcourt…strange indeed.
As far as the other major concern with any PSU opponent, perimeter shooting: Georgia Tech surprisingly struggles in this category, shooting a combined 14/43 from behind the arc for a whopping 32.9 percent. Lance Storrs is the team’s most dangerous shooter, going 5/10 from downtown. Being that Tech’s already played four games, this seems to indicate that Storrs is simply one of those bench players that you bring in for a few minutes if you need to launch a few 3-point torpedos in order to get an offensive spark going. Then again, how many times have we seen a supposedly lousy 3-point shooting team suddenly catch fire against us? Let’s just move on…
Georgia Tech also loves to play up-tempo, as evidenced by their being ranked 4th in tempo/pace according to Ken Pomeroy. Being that Ed DeChellis allegedly favors an up-tempo style as well, this should make for an entertaining game that could end up resembling a track meet of sorts. PSU should be able to hold pace throughout the game and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.
The line is currently -8.5 in favor of Georgia Tech, which sounds about right. Tech’s playing at home and most importantly, have a far superior frontcourt which could offset their weaker backcourt, not to mention the fact that PSU also has issues playing in big road games. If the Fighting DeChellises are going to have any hope of pulling the upset, then Talor Battle needs to put up another near-triple double performance, Pringle and Morrissey need to shoot lights-out and play solid defense, and somebody other than Cornley and DJ has to step up in the frontcourt. Andrew Jones putting on a repeat performance of his 13-rebound game against Towson would certainly be a place to start, Jeff Brooks making a cameo apperance would also be nice.
Crispin and Cream doesn’t see tonight being such a “Holly Jolly” evening, as he’s picking Georgia Tech to cover the spread with a 9-point win. My advice to him is to just switch over to Rudolph after 8 PM, because while PSU will likely hang around in this one and tickle our fancies by being a couple shots away from taking the lead, I just don’t see them getting over the hump (i.e. making that key defensive stop). I will however, take PSU to beat the spread and say Tech wins by 7. John will reluctantly do the same.