Penn State stinks, right? They have a losing record. Micah Shrewsberry has 26 games worth of head-coaching experience. Dozens of fans attend their homes games
Illinois should win this game for the same reason they won at Michigan and lost to Ohio State: John Harrar won’t get a lot of help in the post.
In the 2/8 game against Michigan, PSU rarely doubled Hunter Dickinson. Hunter isn’t necessarily a good comp for Kofi, because he spends so much time in the high-post. But when he played low-post, PSU gave no special effort to collapse on him defensively. That could/should change given the amount of video evidence that Kofi’s worst performances occur when he’s the subject of active triple-teamers.
But will it? Is Shrewberry trying to win games or build a culture?
HAIR-uh is a coach’s favorite, correctly regarded as a diligent and talented bright spot for a team that doesn’t win frequently. That’s true of Dickinson, too. Shrewsberry and Juwan Howard (and Phil Martelli) are accustomed to competing favorably at the 5-spot. They throw their bigs at opponents, and assume good outcomes.
Against Illinois, that’ll cost ya. Kofi Cockburn likes a good one-on-one.
So again, you’d have to ask yourself whether PSU is looking for short term solutions. They could win this game, but do they care to try?
Nine cats average meaningful minutes for Shrewsberry. That includes Canisius transfer Jalanni White, a fifth-year guy who’ll play 11 of the minutes that HAIR-uh (phonetic pronunciation) doesn’t play. It’s possible that 10th man Jevonnie Scott, a JUCO transfer, will also see limited action against Cockburn.
Penn State’s guards are more familiar. Myles Dread is another #B1G stalwart whose career, in your memory, began in the Obama Administration. The first one.
You know about Sam Sessoms too, and perhaps recognize him as the Vinnie Johnson of State College. He’s their Instant Offense, but also one of the smaller guys who might help on Kofi in the paint.
Jalen Pickett is their new guy. A 2021 Lou Henson Award watchlistee at Siena, he’s compiled a 110-45 A/TO for the Lions. Not a great shooter (30% 3FG, 40% FG) he’s probably the reason PSU is 12-14 rather that 16-10.
The problem for Illinois, assuming Kofi does well with PSU’s standard defense, would be be that all the Lions go off from three while none of the Illini do. It’s possible. Sessoms is a 44% guy, and he plays about the same minutes as Dread. (27-ish. Sam has 10 starts in PSU’s 26 games while Dread started 18 of 16. They both played in every game.)
Dallion Johnson is a 43% bomber for the Lions. That’s significantly better than Seth Lundy, whose 26 starts are not necessarily a product of his offensive capabilities. But Lundy, Sessoms, Harrar and Pickett are the four Lions averaging double-figures. Pickett scores the most at 12.8/game.
Illini Report does not make predictions, and that won’t matter if Illinois loses this game, because you will be focused on acquiring a new television and beer mug (having thrown the latter through the former).