Indiana vs. Penn State: What better way to pregame the BCS title?

Patrick Smith

Yes, there is B1G college basketball being played tonight, and you've no doubt had enough 'Bama vs. Notre Dame coverage by now. That makes tonight a great excuse to skip the pregame hype show and watch one of the nation's premiere basketball teams compete against a program that might be pretty good next year.

Penn State will probably lose when the team hosts the basketball powerhouse Indiana Hoosiers tonight at the BryceJordanCenter. The good news is that we will get to see the Lions compete against one of the nation’s top teams, which is something that was not afforded to fans when PennState fell short against Wisconsin on Thursday.

Make no mistake, I still love Bo Ryan, but I’m not sure if his team this season has enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament. When the Badgers fail to hit their long-range shots like they did against PennState, they can appear quite pedestrian.

Indiana will be an entirely different challenge, and a big part of that is Cody Zeller, the preseason All-American who has done nothing but live up to the hype so far this season. Zeller is extremely athletic for a player of his size (7’0", 240) and is very adept at scoring around the basket. The fact that PennState has no one whom it can defend Zeller with is only the beginning of the Lions’ issues going into tonight.

If and when Zeller is double-teamed the ball is kicked outside, the Hoosiers have hit 41.4 percent of their three-pointers this season, good for seventh in the country. In particular, senior Jordan Hulls doesn’t miss very often from beyond the arc. He’s shooting with 51.4 percent accuracy this season on 70 attempts.

Upperclassmen Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo can also knock down threes, but the pair hasn’t had to as much. That’s mostly because each player is an explosive scorer in his own right, and both would rather get to the rim than settle for a jumper when given the chance.

The one weakness that IU possesses is interior defense. Zeller isn’t lousy by any means, but he probably should block more shots than he does considering his size. Watford is not a terrific defender either, but with PennState lacking frontcourt scoring talent, this is unlikely to be an issue for the Hoosiers tonight.

Although freshman Brandon Taylor is a forward and can score, a lot of his production has come from the outside this season. It is likely that PennState will need to shoot the lights out just to stay close in this game, but I would like to see more of Taylor working in the post, particularly if Zeller is occupied by Jonathan Graham or Sasa Borovnjak.

On offense, obviously, PennState must get terrific performances from D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall. While Marshall had a terrific shooting game last week against Wisconsin (9-for-14 with 19 points), neither player got to the free throw line even once.

That must change against Indiana, a team that would be significantly hampered should Zeller land in foul trouble. Newbill and Marshall must make every effort necessary to create contact with Zeller on their drives to the basket. The Lions do not want to get into a field goal shooting contest with Indiana.

What this whole preview is really saying is that there's not a very good chance for Penn State to hang with Indiana tonight. If the Lions can make the game competitive for even a little while, then that's less time you have to spend trying to decide who to root for in tonight's BCS Championship Game.

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