Michigan, which is tied with Ohio State for second place in the standings at 12-5, needs to beat Penn State and get the Buckeyes to defeat league-leading Michigan State to create a three-way tie at the top of the standings. The Wolverines have claimed victory in five of the last six games, the latest triumph coming on Thursday in a 72-61 final versus Illinois on the road.
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are a team that have hit the skids in a major way. Since the start of the 2012 calendar year the team has won a total of just four games and only two in the last 10 outings. Since taking out Iowa in the middle of February the squad has dropped three straight decisions, the latest being an 80-56 defeat at the hands of Purdue on Wednesday night. With a record of just 4-13 in conference play, PSU entered the weekend tied with Nebraska for last place in the standings.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Wolverines are ahead by a count of 26-11, thanks in part to a 71-53 win in the first meeting of the season back in late December at home. Michigan has won three in a row over the Nittany Lions.
Playing in enemy territory in Champaign earlier this week, the Wolverines were led by Tim Hardaway Jr. who scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as he made 6-of-7 shots from the floor and all four of his three-point tries, en route to the third double-double of his career. Trey Burke added 21 points and five assists for the visitors as they leaned heavily on the starting five, with just five points coming from the reserves. As a whole the team connected on 9-of-19 on the perimeter and 21-of-23 at the free-throw line. In conference games this season Burke is the top scorer for the group with 15.6 ppg, handing out 77 assists along the way which is more than twice as many as anyone else on the squad. Hardaway checks in with 14.2 ppg and has struggled at times with his shot, making just 39.7 percent from the field. As a whole, the defense for the Wolverines is limiting conference opponents to just 59.9 ppg which means Michigan is outscoring those foes by slightly more than three points per outing.
Tim Frazier kept Penn State in the mix in the first half against Purdue in the most recent outing, scoring 16 points to help the visitors to West Lafayette convert 56.0 percent from the floor, but in the second half the PSU defense was overwhelmed and couldn't keep up. Frazier finished the outing with 24 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals, followed by Jermaine Marshall who delivered 10 points as the team was dominated on the glass, 31-17, and scored just eight points at the free-throw line. On a team that is scoring just 60.1 ppg in conference play, Frazier has become one of the most integral parts of his team than anyone else in the Big Ten, scoring 20.1 ppg and handing out 96 of the unit's 173 assists. Frazier has done it all for the Nittany Lions, from clearing 4.1 rpg to making 39 steals over the course of 17 league bouts. Jermaine Marshall is the only other double-digit scorer in conference with his 10.9 ppg, although his 38.4 percent shooting from the field brings the entire team down to just 39.5 percent.