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Penn State Basketball - Frontcourt Preview


The 2013-2014 Nittany Lions roster doesn't possess one of your old man's power forwards or centers, so one of the hardest part of this preview was classifying which players actually comprise the "frontcourt". Especially when the head coach is yet again claiming that one of the Big Ten's leading rebounders and career 14% 3-point shooter, Ross Travis, is going to play a 'guard spot'.

Regardless, we do know the performance of the Lions' big men will make-or-break Pat Chambers' 3rd season in State College.

You can throw any number of adjectives around to describe the Lions' backcourt - experienced, talented, versatile, deep, the list can go on. Take the exact opposite meaning of those and you wind up with a picture-perfect portrait of the Lion's big men contingent. Without Sasa Borovnjak, questions abound with this undersized bunch of underclassmen. How can they counterbalance one of the conference's best backcourts and form a not-so-one-sided attack?

The Numbers

Player Class Min% Poss% PPG eFG% 3P% RPG OReb% DReb% BPG
Ross Travis Jr. 77.7% 16.6% 7.0 36.2% 12.5% 7.4 7.7% 20.4% 0.4
Brandon Taylor So. 50.0% 16.9% 5.3 44.0% 28.6% 3.3 4.8% 14.7% 0.4
Donovon Jack So. 9.2% 15.5% 1.7 50.0% 50.0% 1.0 5.0% 13.2% 0.2
Julian Moore Fr. - - - - - - - - -
Payton Banks Fr. - - - - - - - - -
Alan Wisniewski RS Sr. 3.2% 13.6% 0.6 66.6% - 0.7 5.9% 16.9% 0.2

It's a given any year with Penn State basketball that the backcourt will carry more weight than the frontcourt, but this might be one of the more unbalanced squads I can remember. Only two guys played more minutes last year than Tim Frazier in this group, and neither of them stand an inch over 6'7". They also really like shooting (and missing) 3-pointers, hence the inclusion of that statistical category.

Jokes aside, it's a safe bet that Ross Travis is going to shoot at a better clip this year. It's nearly impossible for him not to. But can he improve so much to become an efficient scoring threat for the Lions? Things tended to go his way when he attacked the lane, but all too often he was found squaring up from 17+ feet. A lot will ride on Ross' shoulders to balance the offensive attack. We all know and love his rebounding, athleticism, and effort on the floor, but the junkyard dog has to deliver some scoring punch this season.

While Ross is the best candidate to produce the most points, he's not the guy that's going to be matched up against opposing bigs. The beef of the frontcourt begins with the sophomore duo of Brandon Taylor and Donovon Jack. With little depth, both of these guys are going to be depended on from day one this year. Jack didn't gain nearly the experience Taylor did in their first season due to a stress-fracture in his foot that ended his campaign in February. Both had some moments as freshmen, but the growing pains were more evident. Are they ready to handle what's expected of them in 2014?

They're going to have to either way, because what's behind them ain't much more comforting. Julian Moore will have the opportunity to get his feet wet at the college level, but the raw freshman shouldn't be expected to be an immediate contributor. Wisniewski will also see meaningful minutes at times during the year, because how can PSU afford not to with so little size up front? Banks isn't 6'10" so he likely is the odd-man-out of the rotation, especially after suffering a few minor injury setbacks in the preseason.

The challenge is up to Chambers to develop these guys into more than pick-and-pop shooters. The offense stretches the floor, creates driving lanes, and depends on Frazier and Newbill to create for others, but the big men are going to need to have some level of involvement closer to the basket at some point. How this group develops will go a long way in determining how much this team can improve in 2014 and beyond.