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Buy or Sell: Iowa-Penn State men's basketball preview

BY RYAN PROBASCO AND BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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To preview the Hawkeyes’ game against Penn State on Saturday, men’s basketball reporters Ryan Probasco and Ben Ross answer some key questions surrounding the matchup and Iowa basketball.

Buy or Sell: Playing Penn State on the road is a trap game for Iowa.

Ross: Buy, heavy. Iowa should be scared going into this one. Penn State was down 12 points with three minutes left against Indiana and came out with a victory, and you better believe the Nittany Lions are flying high after that one. Penn State has respectable conference wins over Ohio State, Nebraska, and now Indiana; with Iowa coming into the Lions’ Den (Is that what they call Penn State’s basketball arena? If they don’t, they should.) Penn State will be licking its chops to get a signature win in what is being mustered up as a halfway-decent basketball season.

Iowa certainly has been known to play down to its competition and is prone to sloppy play on the road against a lesser team. After Penn State, Iowa is at Indiana, a venue it hasn’t won at since Feb. 5, 2011, when all of Iowa’s seniors were freshmen. Iowa is going to have to respect Penn State and play mistake-free basketball if it’s going to come out of the Lions’ Den (we’re doing this now) with a win.

Probasco: Sell. With a week in between games to prepare for this one, there’s no reason Iowa should look past Penn State, especially after seeing what it did against Indiana on the road Wednesday.

In conference play thus far, the Nittany Lions have been nothing short of dreadful. At 4-8, they currently hold the 11th spot in the 12-team Big Ten. And honestly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Penn State go winless the rest of the way. After Iowa, the Lions will go to Nebraska, host Ohio State and Wisconsin, then travel to play much-improved Northwestern and Minnesota.

Some may chalk this one up as a tough game, but Iowa is the far superior team. I don’t buy that it’s a trap game, not even a little bit.

Devyn Marble is a legitimate Big Ten Player of the Year candidate

Ross: Buy. Devyn Marble might not be a household name like Nik Stauskas, Aaron Craft, Gary Harris, or even A.J. Hammons, but he’s been doing his damndest as of late to make an impression on those who watch him.

Marble is the only player in the conference who has scored in the double digits in each Big Ten game and is second in the conference in scoring (17.8 points per Big Ten game). He’s the only player to average at least 16 points a game and have more than 45 steals. Sure, he has a tendency to not show up late in the game and maybe miss a few free throws, but showing up fashionably late is the new thing now, and he’s having his biggest games when Iowa needs him most.

Probasco: Buy. And who is saying Marble isn’t showing up late in games?

In second halves of Big Ten games, Marble is averaging 10.8 points, hitting 46 percent of his shots from the field and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

And after the 22-point first half (26 points total) he put up against Michigan, Marble was named to the Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 List on Thursday.

The Naismith Trophy is the award given to the top men’s basketball player in the country by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors. If Marble is being considered for the most prestigious individual award in college basketball, he has to be in consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year.

Penn State’s backcourt will outplay Iowa’s

Ross: Sell. Penn State hasn’t seen a team that plays defense as well (at times) as Iowa, and without a true center to bang in the boards, I don’t think the Nittany Lions are going to know what to do when the shots aren’t falling.

Sure, D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier are studs who average more than 16 points a game, but after that, their scoring options become limited. Graham Woodward is a threat from 3, but that’s about it. Mike Gesell and Marble should have no problem eating those guys up, seeing as Marble just held Stauskas to 10 points and 4 turnovers. If Iowa can hold both Newbill and Frazier to the 10-15 point range, the Hawkeyes should have no problem taking care of business on the long road trip.

Probasco: Buy. I’m only buying this because I believe Iowa is going to beat Penn State through a different avenue than its backcourt strength.

Penn State’s bigs are relatively weak. And the Hawkeyes average 8 more rebounds (43-35) per contest than the Nittany Lions do.

To counter Penn State’s backcourt duo of Frazier and Newbill, I expect Iowa to pressure the ball handler in hopes of forcing Penn State to rely more on other players.

None of Penn State’s top-four scorers are listed above 6-7, whereas six of Iowa’s top seven scorers are at least 6-6. Iowa’s length and depth will give Penn State serious issues, as it has for many Hawkeye opponents.

The backcourt of the Nittany Lions may have a prettier stat line when it’s all said and done, but it probably won’t mean much.


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