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Since, barring a miracle, Penn State's season will end in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, BSD looks ahead to next season.
Yes, I'm incredibly biased in my thinking, but I truly think that PSU's shootyhoopers are going to make the NCAA Tournament next year. No. Seriously.
First, let's try to identify what made this team so bad: yes, there was Tim Frazier's injury, but even if Frazier was healthy, I don't think this team would have won more than five conference games. According to Ken Pomeroy, Penn State's schedule was the third toughest in the country by his pythagorean winning percentage. Hell, the teams with the four toughest schedules by that statistic were all in the Big Ten, a testament to how brutal the conference is in 2012-13 (NOTE: The Big Ten is the best basketball conference in America and if anyone tries to tell you differently you should punch them in the peener).
I don't think it's crazy to think that, in 2013-14, the Big Ten will be considerably worse. The five best teams are, in some order, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan. All of those teams will be losing a ton of talent, whether it be through declaring early (Cody Zeller, Trey Burke, Deshaun Thomas, et al) or graduation (Victor Oladipo, Jared Berggren, Christian Watford, among others).
The Big Ten will still be great, yes. But aside from Michigan State, most of these teams are probably going to lose a ton of talent and experience. Hell, even middle of the road Big Ten teams like Illinois (Brandon Paul) and Minnesota (Trevor Mbakwe) are going to be losing major talent. There is going to be a ton of parity in the Big Ten next year, and teams with talent and experience are the ones that could benefit the most. NOT A COINCIDENCE: Penn State will be a sneaky-talented team led by two redshirt seniors and a redshirt junior.
Going off of that, I really don't think I can stress how important it is that Tim Frazier is coming back. Even at 70-80 percent of the first-team All Big Ten performer from 2011-12 (which I think is a fair number for someone coming off of a season-ending Achilles injury), Frazier is one of the 10 or 15 best point guards in the country and, for my money, the best PG in the Big Ten. Going back to someting I said in my Bleacher Report days (WARNING: THIS LINK WILL BRING YOU TO BLEACHER REPORT AND THEREFORE IS NSFW), having Frazier will, in most games, mean that Penn State will have the best player on the court. In very close games, I think that advantage could be the difference between a PSU win and a PSU loss.
Frazier coming back means that DJ Newbill gets to slide off the ball, where he can do all the things he did his freshman year at Southern Mississippi that made him the conference's Freshman of the Year. Yeah, the sample size is fairly limited, but he shot 53.5 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three and was 5th in the country among freshmen at getting to the free throw line. Newbill also grabbed 6.2 rebounds per game in 30.5 minutes per game from the 2 guard position. One color commentator said during a PSU game earlier in the season that playing the point is going to help Newbill tremendously because once he slides off the ball, the game will slow down tremendously, something I completely agree with. I don't agree with Pat Chambers that PSU will have the best backcourt in the country, but I certainly think Frazier/Newbill can be one of the ten best backcourts in the country.
Oh, one last thing: Pat Chambers. For the first time at Penn State, this will be a Pat Chambers team. A team that doesn't need size (his tallest player at Boston when they made the NCAA Tournament was 6'9"), he just needs guys that can execute, play their asses off and shoot a ton of threes. Penn State has had those first two, and between Frazier coming back (his ability to drive should free things up on the perimeter a la this guy named Russell that plays professional basketball in Oklahoma City) and the glut of capable shooters (Newbill, Marshall, Brandon Taylor, Hoops McGloin, John Johnson and Graham Woodward), I think it's safe to say they will have the third.
Is Penn State winning the Big Ten next year? No. Of course not. Although it is safe to assume that this would happen to Chad and/or Eric if that were to happen. But can Penn State be one of the five to seven best teams in the conference and sneak into the NCAA Tournament? I think they can, and I think they will. Wu Tang.