Penn State and Michigan weren’t high on most lists of Big Ten title contenders when the season started, but that might be slowly starting to change.
Given the teams’ hot starts, Penn State’s trip to Michigan for a Sunday afternoon game looks to be a more intriguing conference opener for each than previously thought.
The Nittany Lions went through some turmoil right as practices started when head coach Pat Chambers resigned in late October following an investigation into inappropriate conduct. A player said Chambers made a racially insensitive remark to him.
However, Penn State forged on to a 3-1 start and was impressive on Tuesday during a convincing 75-55 road win over No. 15 Virginia Tech.
The Nittany Lions are putting up 81.3 points per game and have four players averaging in double figures: Seth Lundy (16.8 points per game), Izaiah Brockington (14), Sam Sessoms (12.3) and Myreon Jones (12.3).
“I think we will be pretty good offensively,” Penn State interim head coach Jim Ferry said. “We’ve been pretty good offensively in the Big Ten the past three years, and I think we will continue to be good. It’s going to come down if we can defend and rebound.”
Michigan has won its first five games, and like Penn State, can be deadly from the perimeter.
The Wolverines are shooting 52.6 percent from the field as a team and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.
Senior Isaiah Livers (16.2 ppg) and sophomore Franz Wagner (10.2) are the team’s best returnees from last year, but Michigan has been invigorated by some new blood as well.
Freshman Hunter Dickinson has been a revelation, averaging 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds a game, while Wake Forest grad transfer Chaundee Brown has made 46.2 percent of his 3-point attempts and is averaging 12 points a game.
Michigan is coming off of a 91-71 win over Toledo on Wednesday and knows it will have to ratchet up the intensity with the start of Big Ten play arriving.
“Definitely bigger bodies now and faster people,” Wagner said. “We have to be more on our ‘A’ game now because little mistakes are going to be exposed more easily.”
The Wolverines will be without Austin Davis for the Penn State and for an unspecified stretch after he sustained a right foot injury against Toledo. The senior forward is averaging six points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media