Fresh off of an ugly win over Hampton in the first round of the CBI, Penn State moves on to play Siena on the road in the quarterfinals. Although fans like myself can enjoy the novelty of a power conference team like Penn State visiting a MAAC team (this rarely happens in the regular season or postseason), the Lions can't be too happy about having to get on the bus to play a team that it's better than.
Penn State and Siena actually have identical 16-17 records on the season, but the Saints have only beaten two teams in KenPom's top 100: a November victory over St. Bonaventure and one in February over NCAA Tournament 13 seed Manhattan. The Lions, on the other hand, have four top-100 wins in Big Ten play and five overall. Of course, you could argue that that all goes out the window after they narrowly escaped a Hampton team that they should have routed.
Siena was much more convincing in its opening CBI game with a 66-55 win over America East runner-up Stony Brook. The Saints' leading scorer Rob Poole paced the team with 20 points, while top forward Brett Bisping added 17 points, six rebounds, and two blocks. Those are two players who will be key for Penn State to defend on Monday night. While the 6'5" Poole is a natural matchup for D.J. Newbill, Bisping might be more of an issue because of the inconsistent play that the Lions have been getting from their forwards.
Against Hampton, Jordan Dickerson picked up three fouls in just 18 minutes, while Travis Ross continued his scoring slump with six points in 28 minutes. Donovon Jack was shutout completely.
We all know that Penn State is a guard-oriented team, but that kind off forward production against a MEAC team is pathetic. It's disappointing that Travis hasn't yet seen his offense catch up to his athleticism. Dickerson isn't ready yet to take even a minor role on offense, but it would be nice if he could avoid fouling long enough to stay on the court for long stretches.
Monday is another chance for Pat Chambers to give his team some momentum heading into the offseason. The 2014-15 season could be another hard one to swallow for Penn State fans if the team can't handle the graduation of Tim Frazier. However, the arrival of highly-touted freshman Shep Garner as well as the continuing rise to stardom of D.J. Newbill give plenty of room for growth as well.
How the next 12 months go for Penn State basketball depends a lot on how the forwards develop. We've already seen that a pair of great guards aren't good enough to be significant in the Big Ten. Will we see some of this development on Monday night? Based on the last few games, I think we're going to have to wait until next year. Siena wins 60-59.