Last night Penn State defeated American 76-57 in front of a sparce Jordan Center crowd of just over 7500 fans to close out their out of conference schedule. The Nittany Lions will begin their holiday break now and resume their schedule with the Big Ten opener against Minnesota on December 29.
With the out of conference slate out of the way the Nittany Lions sit at 8-4 just as I predicted.
I'll say Penn State goes 8-4 through the non-conference schedule. They'll drop one in the Charleston Classic. Then they'll lose to Temple and Virginia because those games are on the road. Then I say they gak up a game they should win somewhere along the line due to the lack of experience.
Well, they beat Virginia, but lost to Virginia Tech. And they gaked up two games in the Charleston Classic they should have won. So the question begs, is the resume of this team good enough to make the NCAA tournament?
No way. Not a chance. Virginia is their signature win, and the Cavaliers are sitting at 5-4 right now. Penn State's RPI is currently 220. Last year Penn State finished fourth in the conference and didn't make the tournament. So you have to figure with this resume they have to finish better than that, and right now I don't think they're playing well enough to do that. But an NIT bid is still within reach. Especially with how well the Nittany Lions filled up Madison Square Garden last year.
But things aren't all bad. Talor Battle is playing at a much more consistent level than he was a year ago, and he looks much more mature. I don't think we'll see the midseason slump we saw from him last year. He just looks more physically ready for the Big Ten season than he ever has. But the question lies with the players around him.
It's no secret that in order for this team to be successful other players will have to step up. The talent is there, but there are no other go-to guys on this team. Some nights David Jackson steps up. Then he goes scoreless the next game. Jeff Brooks looks like a human highlight reel for five minute spurts here and there. But he's largely invisible three-quarters of the time. Chris Babb looked horrible for most of the season, but he's starting to find the bottom of the bucket from behind the arc going 5-for-7 in his last two games.
Tim Frazier has a ton of talent, but he's still developing the mental maturity. You can see him get frustrated at times and he tries to take over the game. It's a noble trait, but when you don't come through you just let down your coaches and teammates by not playing within the system. He's got to learn to forget a bad play when it's over and move on. He can't let things bother him.
Somebody in the front court has to step up and become a go-to guy. Andrew Jones isn't getting the ball enough despite the fact he's hitting over 50% from the field on the season. Good things happen when he gets the ball in the low post. Even when he doesn't score he either dishes it out for an open look from three or he draws the defense and opens things up for the weak side. He needs to get the ball more often.
So we'll see how the Big Ten season goes. I predicted seven wins in the conference and I still think that looks about right. They'll prey on the weaker teams of the conference, they'll get a few wins against the middle teams, and I think they'll pull a major upset or two. All it takes for this team is to have one player like Chris Babb or Andrew Jones get hot and I really believe they can play with anyone. But the flip side is if nobody shows up, and Talor Battle has to do it all himself, they can lose to anyone as well.