As part of the 2 year series started last year, Penn State comes to Philly to take on the Dragons at a “Neutral” arena, the Cathedral of College Basketball, the mighty Palestra. Penn State has had a fairly decent start to the season, beating a bunch of middle of the pack teams, hanging close against a very good George Washington team, and with a confusing loss to Radford. Picked 11th out of 14 Big 10 teams to begin the year, the Nittany Lions have seen success with their defense, ranking 29th in Block % and holding opponents to only 43.7% inside the arc, which is especially disheartening to hear for a Dragons team that is coming off of a game in which they were dominated in the paint.
Penn State is led by senior forward Brandon Taylor and rising star Shep Garner, a Roman Catholic product, and former teammate of current Dragon Rashaan London. Brandon Taylor is among the nation’s leaders in % of possessions used and % of shots taken when he is on the floor. Taylor is shooting 43.6% inside the arc and 39.5% from 3, and also has the ability to draw fouls and get to the line with ease. At 6’6” 225, Tavon will most likely, and should, be assigned to guard Taylor. Leading the backcourt is the 6’1” Garner. He is the most efficient player on the court, shooting 43.6% from 2 and 43.1% outside the arc, one of the best marks nationally. Garner also takes great care of the ball, with only 15 turnovers so far this season. The Dragon defense will most certainly have their hands full with this PSU attack.
As for the Dragons, their struggles this year have been well documented. After the team’s lone win against fellow City 6 School La Salle, the Dragons put up a formidable fight for 20 minutes before going on an 8 minute near scoreless draught which sealed the game for the Gamecocks, in a game which featured 47 fouls. Much could be said about the new rule changes and adapting to this new version of basketball, but that is for another post. The Dragons have actually benefited from the new rules, ranking 20th in the country in getting to the line. Unfortunately, this is offset by sending the opponent to the line, where opponents score 28.2% of their points, good for 6th in the country. If the Dragons want to be competitive in this game and the CAA, they need to learn how to play within the new rules.
Unfortunately for Drexel, it looks like Ahmad Fields will still be out for the foreseeable future, and the injury bug struck again Tuesday with Rodney Williams needing to be helped off the court. It remains to be seen if he will be able to play on Saturday, and a lot of Drexel’s chances rest on his status. One of the most underrated players this year, Drexel is a much better team when Rodney is out of foul trouble and is able to play his game. Tyshawn Miles and Mohammed Bah can more than hold their own on the boards, but Rodney’s offensive ability adds a much needed frontcourt presence to open up the court for the rest of the team. Even if Rodney does not play, the Dragons still stand a chance. If Tavon improves his shot selection and continues his solid FT presence and Mojica and Abif continue their solid starts to the season, Drexel may stand a chance in winning this game.
Oddly enough, the computers seem to favor Drexel in this game, but I think Penn State is better than the numbers make them seem. While this game may be only 1 block from the Drexel campus, expect the crowd to be a majority of Penn State fans. Playing in friendly confines, coupled with the likelihood Drexel continues its foul problems, I see Drexel hanging tough for a while but eventually losing out to the Nittany Lions.
Mark Walush Prediction: PSU 70 – Drexel 61
Dan Crain Prediction: PSU 66 - Drexel 60
Vegas Line: TBA
Alan Boston's Take:
Penn St has always been a very tough place to win in basketball. They have had some excellent coaches try. Most recently Ed Dechellis who gave up and went to an even tougher place, Navy, where they had success with David Robinson at center and then a bit with the legendary Don Devoe coaching. Point being, it is a football school. Patrick Chambers now in his 5th year has done a very good job. He is a Philly guy, so perhaps that is the reason for The Palestra as the site. He was an assistant at Villanova and head coach at B.U. prior to taking the Penn St job. Typically a lower major is like a mid major. You get your best results recruiting high school players and hope by their 3rd or 4th year, you have a competitive team. This is not a strong Penn St team. Their best win was probably over Eastern Mich at home. Their worst loss was being blasted by Duquesne. This is a very winnable game for Drexel. They did not play that poorly at South Carolina, following their strong play at Lasalle. They are also playing a team that will not overwhelm them athletically. Unfortunately and I am repeating myself, the 30 second clock and the refs calling it close, do not mesh well with what Bruiser likes to do. It is sad that this is what basketball has become. Perhaps they will stop treating colleges like a minor league for the NBA and start letting student athletes be just that. I hope Drexel gets lots of support at my old stomping grounds. I hope the refs dont call it too too close.
Drexel 66 Penn st 61