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Penn State Hoops Summer Update

Last week the Penn State basketball program announced their 2008-2009 non-conference schedule. Behold it in all its glory.

Nov 14 William & Mary
Nov 17 New Jersey Institute of Technology
Nov 20 Hartford
Nov 23 New Hampshire
Nov 25 Penn (@ the Palestra)
Nov 28 Philly Classic
Nov 29 Philly Classic
Dec 3 @ Georgia Tech
Dec 6 Temple
Dec 10 Army
Dec 13 Mount St. Marys
Dec 21 Lafayette
Dec 23 Sacred Heart

Here is how the Ed DeChellis spins the schedule.

"I think our non-conference schedule is very competitive and will give us a good idea of things we need to work on and get us ready to play in the conference season," DeChellis said. "We are playing three times in Philadelphia, which is great for our fans and alumni there, and hopefully we will play some pretty good teams in the Philly Classic. We have a couple of good road challenges at Pennsylvania, where they are always tough in the Palestra, and down to ACC country against Georgia Tech again, and I think we have some good, competitive home opponents for our fans to come see including a great intrastate game with Temple."

And here is what Penn State basketball blog Crispin and Cream has to say.

The non-con’s out. And it’s going to do nothing to improve or strengthen this team’s chances at an NCAA bid. *Sigh*. Temple, @ GT, Penn at the Palestra, and the Philly Classic thrown in with your assorted home cupcakes.
Boy, I can’t wait to get season tickets.

I tend to agree with C&C, this schedule is an embarrassment for a Big Ten team hoping to make the NCAA Tournament. The administration doesn't understand that it's all about the RPI these days. Beating Penn, Temple, Georgia Tech and making a good showing in the Philly Classic are essential otherwise we will have a bunch of wins that make for an impressive record but do nothing to improve your status come tournament selection time. New Jersey Tech? Mount St. Marys? Sacred Heart? You've got to be kidding me. With an out of conference schedule like this, winning ten or eleven conference games will be a necessity, and even then that may only be good enough to make the NIT. For a program that professes its goal to make the NCAA tournament, it's scheduling certainly does not reflect it.

But there is hope that our standing in the conference will improve. Our seventh place finish last year was our best  in the Ed DeChellis era. Our only losses are Geary Claxton, who we played the second half of last season without anyway, Mike Walker, a role playing shooting guard with poor perimeter defensive skills, and Brandon Hassell, a big man that couldn't rebound, score, or block shots. The nucleus of this team returns in Jamelle Cornley, Andrew Jones, David Jackson, Danny Morrissey, Stanley Pringle, Jeff Brooks, and Talor Battle. And as the Centre Daily Times points out, the team is working hard this summer to get better.

"He got bigger, stronger," Pringle said of Battle. "When someone’s guarding him up close, he can kind of put his body on them and use more of his strength, instead of just his speed and quickness."

Battle, who rebounded from a horrific early-season shooting slump to finish the season in double-figure scoring (10.2 points per game), spent last weekend playing at the Empire State Games, an Olympic-style amateur event in Binghamton, N.Y. This summer, he’s noticeably more vocal on the floor.

"I’m just trying to become more of a leader," said the spindly 5-foot-10 sophomore. "Obviously cut down on my turnovers. Little things that come with getting older."

Pringle, a second-year junior-college transfer, put about five pounds of muscle on his 6-foot frame but hasn’t lost the first step that made him one of the toughest Nittany Lions to defend last year. If anything, Pringle is getting to the basket even more quickly these days.

"I kind of fall back on that," Pringle said. "But I’m really trying to work my mid-range game in the offseason."

But all the rage this summer is incoming freshman Chris Babb, who many players are saying shoots lights out.

Talor Battle was discussing the shooting ability of Penn State’s newest gunner, freshman guard Chris Babb, when something at the other end of the floor interrupted him in mid-sentence: Chris Babb, drilling a 3-pointer.

"Yeah, he’s been hitting the jump shot," Battle said.


Both players have been impressed by what they’ve seen so far from Babb, the 6- foot-5 native of Arlington, Texas who has deep shooting range and a lightning release.

Fight on State landed an interview with Jamelle Cornley at the Lift For Life in which he spoke about Babb and the other freshmen as well as updating us on his injured knee.

Considering how amazing a one-legged Cornley was last year, I'll take a 95% Cornley any day. And if Babb shoots as well as advertised I think we'll be ok. Too bad our out of conference schedule will limit the potential of this team.