January 7, 2010

Michigan Preview: So You're Telling Us There's a Chance?

After another un-shocking snoozer of a loss to Wisconsin, the Fighting DeChellises* find themselves at 0-2 in the Big Ten, with only one consistent scorer who is having to shoulder a Keanu Reeves-heavy load to no avail. Suffice it to say, this team is desperately looking to avoid the oh-so-familiar freefall of a losing skid that plagued the program during most of the past decade.

That's why tonight's matchup at home against Michigan (7-6, 1-1) should be considered the most critical contest of the year so far. If PSU can break out of their offensive funk from [GAME THAT NEVER HAPPENED] and pull off the victory as they're expected to (Vegas has them as a 2-point favorite, which I'll talk about a couple paragraphs from now), it would give the fans some hope that perhaps this team can still post a winning record and get back to the NIT. Furthermore, it would give the players a serious confidence boost which will play in perfectly to what amounts to a winnable three-game stretch at Illinois, at Iowa, and home against Indiana.

A Michigan win on the other hand, means that it's safe for us fans to mail it in for the year as it means there's absolutely no hope for this squad to finish above the Big Ten's basement. For me, that means going into apathy mode and dishing out an insane amount of sarcasm on here in order to keep myself from strangling somebody, followed by lots of drinking. I'm sure I can say the same for the majority of you readers**.

Hopefully, I won't have to resort to such drastic measures though, as it's become apparent that Michigan is a god-awful road team. This has become a recurring theme in the John Beilein era. Sure, they've been handled by mostly respectable teams such as Kansas, Utah, and Marquette, but they also lost to a Lieutenant Dan-healthy Indiana team whose leading scorer is done for the year with a dislocated knee.

Those of you who have followed college basketball long enough know that John Belein-coached teams love the three-ball and love to play that quirky 1-3-1 zone defense which if broken, can lead to a variety of open looks. PSU needs to take serious advantage of such looks. I'm looking at you, Chris Babb: It's time for you to light up the Wolverines with several treys and become that shooter everyone was hoping you would be right now.

I'm also looking at you too, Andrew Jones III: It's time for you to return to the AJ III that we saw schooling the likes of Notre Dame's Luke Harangody in last year's NIT and racking up double-double performances. Michigan is simply put, not a good rebounding team as they are a team that settles for mainly jump shots and backdoor layups on offense and rarely crashes the boards. A near double-double is expected from you.

And don't worry about Talor Battle, he'll return to his usual man-crushing self tonight under the bright lights of the ESPN2 cameras. Yes, that's right, we're on national TV tonight, 7 PM ET. Tune in, and make sure you've got your favorite liquor ready just in case...

One more thing to point out: I'm in the midst of a prediction contest with PSU basketball blogger Battle Does It Again. For those of you who aren't familiar with my old site, HHV, the essence of the contest involves BDIA and I picking the spread on each PSU hoops game. I haven't tallied the exact numbers as of late, but I do know that BDIA is kicking my ass. I promise I'll catch up on that soon enough. In the meantime, I'm going to follow BDIA's lead and take PSU to cover with a seven-point victory.

* = For those of you who are unfamiliar, I use "Fighting DeChellises" as a nickname for the basketball team, much like how Rece Davis on College Gameday Final referred to Kansas's football team as the "Fighting Manginos." On that note, I'm curious to see if Rece starts referring to KU's football team as the "Fighting Gills."

** = Come to think of it, most of you readers have probably followed the team for several years now and are already drunk with false hope, much like those stuck on the "Island Of Misfit Toys."

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