Penn State Nittany Lions
Current record: 10-6
Big Ten record: 2-2
Current RPI: 138
Current Sagarin: 109
2006-07 record: 11-19 (2-14)
2006-07 RPI: 199
2006-07 Sagarin: 155
Series: IU leads 26-3
Last IU win: 3/3/07, 94-63 in Bloomington
Last Penn State win: 2/15/06 (68-61 in State College)
Last Penn State win in Bloomington: Never.
TV: 2:00 pm Sunday, Big Ten Network.
Blogs: Black Shoe Diaries, Run Up the Score, The Nittany Line, There is no Name on my Jersey, Nittany Whiteout
Penn State's basketball program is much like IU's football program. The Lions seem to have structural disadvantages (mostly, the school's rural location, far from the state's major cities, which are dominated by Pitt and by the Big Five in Philadelphia). For that reason, I have always viewed the Lions as an appealing underdog, and I hated to see that Geary Claxton, Penn State's 9th year senior, suffered a season- and career-ending knee injury. Claxton led Penn State with 17.5 points per game, and had improved his shooting significantly this year. He was at 50 percent for the season, as compared to a previous career high of 43.9, and was pulling down 8.4 rebounds per game. Penn State seemed to be turning a corner in 2006, when the Lions went 15-14 and qualified for the NIT, but Penn State slipped badly last year. This season, Penn State opened with road wins at Northwestern and Illinois, but lost a close home game to Minnesota before losing badly at home to Wisconsin in the game in which Claxton was injured.
Because of the sudden change in Penn State's team, the numbers may not be particularly useful. Penn State averages 66.1 possessions, sub-200 nationally. Offensively, Penn State doesn't shoot very well, but has a reasonably efficient offense (1.06 points per possession, #84 nationally) thanks to strong offensive rebounding (39.1 percent, #21 nationally) and taking care of the ball (18.1 turnover percentage, also #21 nationally). The Lions' worst offensive attribute is 59 percent free throw shooting.
On the defensive side, Penn State is above average in efficiency (.97 PPP, #95 nationally) and rebounds well (30.2, #59 nationally). Penn State has done this even though no one taller than 6-6 gets meaningful playing time for the Lions. On the other hand, Claxton was the team's leading rebounder, so it's unclear if Penn State's excellence in that category will continue.
The main story on the individuals in the absence of Claxton, and at this point it is unclear how Penn State will handle his loss. After a tough game in Minneapolis, this game should provide the Hoosiers a good opportunity to work on the issues that nearly cost IU that game.