Penn State Basketball Ready to Host No. 5 Indiana on Monday Night
The price of playing in the nation's top conference comes with a steep price tag: There are no days off.
Only four days following a battle and 60-51 loss in Madison, Wis., Penn State will look to upend the fifth-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
While normally a team has particular strengths and weaknesses, a talented, deep and experienced Hoosiers squad can attack you from many angles and is a 88-86 overtime loss to coaching prodigy Brad Stevens' Butler squad away from an unblemished record.
Shooting the ball seventh best in the nation has landed the Hoosiers atop the nation's scoring ranks at 87.9 points a game, and as the eighth-best rebounding team in the country, Indiana leaves opponents very few second-chance opportunities.
For coaches around the country, there is no perfect strategy to defend Indiana. National player of the year candidate Cody Zeller turned down the NBA draft for another year at Indiana, and the 7-foot sophomore forward hasn't lost a step, averaging 16.6 points a game. If Zeller is slowed, the Hoosiers have the likes of guards Victor Oladipo, and Jordan Hulls can strike from outside the perimeter or drive to the hoop.
"They've got a deep bench, they've got a lot of talented guys and they compete at a very high level," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said Sunday. "Oladipo looks great, I think he's one of the best players in the country. They're playing very good team basketball and they're on a mission. Zeller is big and he's athletic and can drive to the basket as well. He's a very special player."
Heading into Monday night's game, Chambers preached the importance of team defense. That, along with rebounding, have been the staple of the Chambers' era in his two years at Penn State. If you can defend and rebound, you can play for him.
"I just want them to play great team defense," Chambers said. "They have a lot of really good ball players, so everybody has to do their job and where we get into trouble is when one guy doesn't do his job or two guys don't do their job.
"Wisconsin only scored 60 points on us. I looked at defensive numbers over the past five games and it has been very good. We have to continue in that direction of playing great team defense. Everybody doing their job, everybody knowing their rotations, and when a shot goes up, everybody finding bodies. That's what it's got to be for us. There are no tricks now. We're in January."
Penn State fell to essentially the same Indiana squad, 88-82 at the Bryce Jordan Center last season, and the Nittany Lions are deeper and more experienced heading into this year's showdown. While it'll still likely take a herculean effort to top the Hoosiers on Monday night, reflecting on DJ Newbill's two highlight dunks against Wisconsin on Thursday, Chambers spoke in a way that transcended those two plays.
"What a good aggressive play," he said. "I think people know, I think the announcers know, that Penn State is coming."