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Breaking Down the Men's Hoops Big Ten Opener

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As head coach Patrick Chambers often says, the first season is complete.  Penn State will open its 22nd season of Big Ten play inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday against No. 5 Michigan State (5 p.m. - BTN).

9573109.jpegThe Nittany Lions finished the non-conference slate with a 9-4 record, their best mark since the 2008-'09 season.  Penn State heads into the 18-game Big Ten slate with confidence.

"I'm excited. I felt like our non-conference has done a great job for us," said Chambers.  "We played every style you can imagine.  That excites me, we've seen everything. There's going to be nothing that we're not ready for. Now, we have two new guys, it makes our bench a little deeper, in case of foul trouble."

Take a look through some things to watch for in the conference opener.

Ringing In the New Year
Nittany Lion fans will have the opportunity to celebrate with Coach Chambers and the squad on New Year's Eve in the Bryce Jordan Center.  Penn State has played on Dec. 31 seven times prior to this season, but not since opening Big Ten play against Northwestern in the Jordan Center on Dec. 31, 2008.  Penn State will be playing just its second game in the last 17 days.  The Lions knocked off Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 22 in the final non-conference game of the season.  Chambers and the Lions feel prepared for the Big Ten season following a 9-4 start.

"It easily could've been 10, it easily could've been 11, but for whatever reason, it's not," Chambers said.  "You have to learn from those losses and that should make us more prepared for the Big Ten.  We should be very well prepared for the road and the teams that come in here."

One of Four Over 80
Penn State's offensive output was superb during the non-conference slate.  The Nittany Lions head into Big Ten play as one of four teams in the conference averaging more than 80 points per game (81.7).  Iowa (88.7), Michigan State (83.7) and Indiana (82.2) are the top three scoring teams in the Big Ten.  The Nittany Lions topped 90 points three times and 80 points eight times during the 13-game non-conference season.  Penn State heads enter the Big Ten shooting at a 48 percent clip from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc.  Five Nittany Lions enter the conference season averaging double-figures, including four of the five starters.  Penn State is second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage.

B1G Backcourt
Leading the offensive charge for Penn State's high scoring output is the top backcourt duo in the Big Ten.  D.J. Newbill is the top scorer in the Big Ten at 18.9 points per game.  The Philadelphia native has been outstanding for Penn State this season.  Newbill is shooting a career-best 51 percent from the field and 43 percent from three.  Additionally, he is averaging 6.2 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists per game.  Fifth-year senior Tim Frazier is fourth in the Big Ten at 18.2 points per game.  Frazier is shooting 48 percent from the field, dishing out a Big Ten-best 7.5 assists per game and 3.9 rebounds per game.  Back after missing all but four games last season, Frazier has again been a terrific floor general for the Nittany Lions.  Senior Allen Roberts and junior John Johnson will add great depth to the backcourt during Big Ten play.  Roberts is averaging 7.1 points per contest as Penn State's sixth man.  Johnson shined in his Nittany Lion debut on Dec. 22, scoring 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting against The Mount.

Opening at Home
For the first time since the 2008-'09 season, the Nittany Lions will open Big Ten play at home.  Since joining the conference prior to the 1992-'93 season, Penn State will open conference games at home for the 10th time overall.  Ironically, Penn State's last conference home opener was also on Dec. 31 in 2008.

Scouting Michigan State
Following a 101-48 victory over New Orleans on Saturday, Michigan State enters Tuesday's game in Happy Valley with an 11-1 mark.  The Spartans' lone loss came to North Carolina inside Breslin Center during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.  Michigan State has non-conference victories over Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and at Texas.  Led by 6-10 senior Adreian Payne (18.0 ppg), Michigan State is averaging 83.7 points per game.  Sophomore guard Gary Harris is second on the team in scoring at 17.9 points per contest.  Senior point guard Keith Appling is averaging 15.9 points per game.  Junior forward Brendan Dawson is the fourth Spartan who averages double-figures at 10.3 points per game.  Dawson also leads the Spartans at 9.3 rebounds per game.

Tom Izzo's squad leads the nation in distributing the basketball.  Michigan State is No. 1 in the nation at 19.5 assists per game.  Appling leads the team at 5.0 assists per game.  The Spartans also lead the conference in field goal percentage at 49.1.  Michigan State is plus-6.3 in rebounding margin.  Dawson leads the conference in offensive rebounding (3.0 rpg).

The Nittany Lions are 4-9 against Michigan State since the 2007-'08 season.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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