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Penn State Basketball - Backcourt Preview

While two legitimate Big Ten stars are the headliners, the depth in the backcourt will be the real backbone of the team.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

For the two full seasons he's been in charge of Penn State, Pat Chambers simply hasn't had the players to run with the big dogs of the Big Ten. Between a debut year which showcased the leftovers of the Ed DeChellis era and a second season which was doomed from the start thanks to Tim Frazier's ruptured Achilles, Chambers had some good excuses to fall back on.

But thanks to that blown tendon, Chambers has more talent in the backcourt than he ever would've dreamed of having for this upcoming season (barring, perhaps, Brandon Austin riding out his commitment). Frazier and D.J. Newbill, who had to shoulder the load of the point guard duties for much of last season, have an opportunity to show everybody what Chambers was talking about when he called the duo "the best backcourt in the country."

There was quite a bit of player movement this offseason, even by Penn State's standards. A quick recap of the comings-and-goings in the backcourt: Jermaine Marshall, who would've been the B1G's second-leading returning scorer, first decided to pursue professional opportunities before making use of the NCAA's graduate transfer rule and landing at Arizona State. In the time it took for Marshall to decide against a pro career, the Nittany Lions had already scooped up Allen Roberts, himself a grad student from Miami (OH). John Johnson will finally get to make his first appearance for Penn State against Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 22nd after sitting out nearly a whole year-and-a-half. Graham Woodward, a sub-6'0" point guard who was first-team all-state in Minnesota, and Geno Thorpe, whom Jon Rothstein listed as one of the "top 20 under-the-radar freshmen" in the country, will also staff a unit that has as much talent as any Penn State backcourt from the last ten years.

The Numbers

Tim Frazier* Sr. (RS) 37.1 18.8 44.5% 31.4% 40.4 6.2 1.7:1 2.4 4.7
Allen Roberts** Sr. (RS) 27.4 12.3 47.2% 33.8% 45.4 1.6 0.7:1 1 2.6
D.J. Newbill Jr. (RS) 36.5 16.3 42.8% 26.7% 45.3 4 1:1 1.2 5
John Johnson*** Jr. 14.1 4.2 52.6% 38.4% 22.7 1.2 1.3:1 0.3 0.6
Graham Woodward Fr. - - - - - - - - -
Geno Thorpe Fr. - - - - - - - - -

*2011-12 stats
**at Miami (OH)
***at Pitt

When the mainstream librul media talk about Frazier, they almost always mention in passing that he now has a "legitimate number two scorer" in Newbill, which he does. But I think that underplays how good of a season Frazier had in 2011-12, and how good he could be this season. Consider his teammates at the time: Marshall (10.8 ppg, 38% FG) , Cammeron Woodyard (8.7 ppg, 35.7% FG), Billy Oliver (6.8 ppg, 36% FG), and Matt Glover (2.3 ppg, 23.5%(!) FG) were the next four leaders in minutes per game. That's also with Oliver leaving two-thirds of the season in due to concussions. And Frazier STILL averaged 6.2 assists per game and assisted teammates on 45.2 percent of their field goals (a figure which led the nation). His Achilles will slow him down, you say? If anything, the surgery and recovery has had a slight Henry Rowengartner effect - his vertical leap has increased by half an inch to 35.5''. As long as he stays healthy, expect Frazier to reclaim his spot on the all-conference first team.

/knocks on all wood within ten mile radius

Newbill retooled his shot this summer, spending an entire month without shooting outside the paint to get his mechanics down pat. He finished last season on a relative tear from behind the arc, going 6-13 from range over his last five games, but Penn State will be much more successful if the junior can get a majority of his looks near the basket - Newbill shot 61% on 2pt attempts last season. Though getting to the basket should be a priority for every team this year, as new hand-check rules will give offensive players an advantage over defenders similar to the onewide receivers have against defensive backs. This, however, is a double-edged sword, especially for Penn State - the Nittany Lions were guilty of committing the third-most fouls in the country a year ago.

As far as the rotation goes, Chambers will likely bring four off the bench, despite the lack of depth in the frontcourt. He's already stated that Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor and Donovon Jack will join Frazier and Newbill in the starting lineup, but don't be surprised to see Roberts and the freshmen on the court often during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

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