To the surprise of nobody, the men’s basketball team was picked to finish last in the media poll released at Big Ten media day last week. The understandably low expectations are a by-product from the loss of many core pieces to last year’s NCAA tournament team. It’s not often a roster is filled with this many unknowns heading into the year. The most comparable situation that stuck out in my mind was the last time this program finished their season in the NCAA tournament - 2001. Here’s what this year’s team returns from last year compared to what the 2001-2002 team returned:
These similar numbers are not surprising. This year’s team has an advantage in assists and steals, because Tim Frazier led last year’s team in those categories, but the production lost is essentially the same across the rest of the board. The 2002 team returned Tyler Smith, a starter, along with a couple reserves in Brandon Watkins, Jamaal Tate, and Sharif Chambliss. This year along with Frazier, there’s Oliver, Woodyard, and Marshall when he returns. Obviously a new coach throws a wrench into the near-identical comparison, but the talent level and inexperience are tough to differentiate. For the record, the 2002 team went 7-21, 3-13 in-conference with a season opening loss at home to Yale. I don't expect it to be that bad, but we can only hope.
Some other teams in the Big Ten also have their own holes to fill, but none are bigger than PSU. Unfortunately, the potential replacements for the Nittany Lions don’t match up on paper to their heralded conference foes. The Nittany Lions five-man recruiting class ranked 11th among all incoming Big Ten classes by Rivals. The biggest shoes to fill + unheralded newcomers = last place prediction.
Coach Chambers is facing a mountainous uphill battle this season and nobody should be upset if this team finishes last. However, all of the negativity is centered around how this team is going to score. No one has talked about the real problem with this program has had seemingly forever - defense. The reason Ed DeChellis struggled so mightily was he could not get his teams to stop the opposition. For example:
|Year||PPP||O-PPP||BT AVG||P Diff||OP Diff|