Big Ten Conference play resumes this week, and the Michigan Wolverines still look like the team to beat. Michigan will host the Penn State Nittany Lions on Thursday night looking to move to 3-0 in Big Ten play. The Wolverines made a surprising run to the Final Four a season ago, and they looked poised to make a return this season. Penn State will have their work cut out for them in this game.
The Wolverines have moved all the way up to number two in the latest AP rankings as their record has climbed to 13-0. Michigan recorded impressive non-conference victories over Villanova and North Carolina earlier this season. Penn State comes into this game with a 7-6 record, and have lost their first two Big Ten Conference games this season. The Nittany Lions do have an impressive victory over Virginia Tech on their resume. Michigan is an 11 point favorite over Penn State on Thursday night.
The Wolverines Can Play Some Defense
The offense of Michigan is usually grabbing all of the headlines, but this version of the Wolverines can play some defense. Michigan is allowing just 55.1 points per game this season, which is the third-best mark in college basketball. Head coach John Beilein is known to be one of the better coaches in the country, and his team has bought in on both ends of the floor. Michigan should be able to keep a struggling Penn State offense to a low number in this game.
Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is probably the best player that you’ve never heard of. The 6’7 Canadian product is pouring in 16.5 points per game this season and has the ability to score in the paint and on the perimeter. Guards Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole have combined for nearly 28 points per game this season, and can really shoot if they are given time. Michigan used a relentless offensive attack to power their run a season ago, but this team has the ability to win in multiple ways.
Nittany Lions Will Need To Score
If Penn State is going to hang around and put a scare into the Wolverines, their offense is going to have to step up. The Nittany Lions are averaging nearly 70 points per game so far this season but might need to get into the 80’s to pull off the upset. Penn State managed to score just 59, and 62 points in their first two Big Ten contests, and life on the road in the Big Ten won’t make things easy for a young team. The Nittany Lions are making just 33 percent of their three-point shot attempts, and are going to need a great shooting performance on Thursday night.
Junior forward Lamar Stevens has been the best player for Penn State so far this season. Stevens is averaging a team-high 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and should be up for the challenge against a strong interior of Michigan. Rasir Bolton has made 31 threes on 44 percent shooting this year and should get some open looks when the Wolverines decide to play some zone defense. Stevens and Bolton will have to do the heavy lifting for Penn State, but a total team effort will be needed.
Michigan Blows Out Penn State
Winning on the road in the Big Ten is never easy, and Penn State simply doesn’t have the roster to compete with Michigan. The Wolverines look like the cream of the crop in the Big Ten this season, and they will be focused for this game. The Nittany Lions struggle to score, and Michigan will light up the scoreboard. This game shouldn’t be close. Bet the Michigan Wolverines -11.0 over the Penn State Nittany Lions.