A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like Penn State had a slight chance to sneak into this year's NIT bracket, but hopes of such a run were dashed with consecutive losses to Minnesota in the regular season finale and Big Ten Tournament opening round. Moving on, Penn State has accepted an invitation to play in this season's CBI tournament, and that's a good thing because 1) more basketball = good and 2) this is still a young team that needs all the experience it can get.
Penn State's first round opponent will be the Hampton Pirates, who finished second in the MEAC standings this season with a 13-3 record (18-12 overall), but were tripped up in the first round of their conference tournament by Coppin State.
Led by senior forward Du'Vaughn Maxwell, who averages a beast-like 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and a whole three blocks per game, Hampton is a very good defensive squad that forces low field goal percentages and lots of turnovers despite fouling its opponents quite often.
On offense, the Pirates aren't a great shooting team, but they grab a lot of their own misses and draw a lot of fouls. Judging from their KenPom page, I'm guessing the average MEAC game lasted two-and-a-half hours just from the constant fouling.
The good news is that Penn State has been great from the free throw line this season, with the team combining to make 75 percent of its shots. There is the possibility that Maxwell and company beat up the Lions on the glass, but based on the talent differential, I'd say Penn State has just enough rebounding and shooting to win this one.
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Head coach Pat Chambers has been playing Jordan Dickerson often lately, and this is a good thing if you're a Penn State fan. Dickerson's height and athleticism give him great potential, and he's already an impact defensive player when he's able to stay out of foul trouble. Hampton draws a lot of fouls, and its best player is a forward, so Dickerson's defense is something to watch in this game. It would also be nice if we saw a sign of him developing on offense, but that might have to hold off until the summer.
It will also be awesome for the Nittany Lion faithful to get to see Tim Frazier play another home game before he graduates. The dude is as special a talent as you'll find in the Big Ten. More important for the future, though, is the development of freshmen guards Graham Woodward and Geno Thorpe. Yes, it would be cool to win the CBI, but I think these games are also very important from an experimental point of view. I want to see Woodward be more aggressive in looking for his shot coming off of pick-and-rolls. I want to see Thorpe hound Hampton's point guard Deron Powers and force a few turnovers.
We likely won't get to see Woodward and Thrope fully blossom until their sophomore or junior seasons, but I hope Pat Chambers didn't accept a CBI invitation just to give Frazier a farewell tour.
Penn State wins 70-60 and moves on to face Siena on the road in the second round.