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Penn State Basketball - Preseason Projection Roundup & Exhibition Preview

Media day has come and gone and we're one exhibition game away from the start of the season.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We're almost there. This Sunday marks the first chance we'll have to see Penn State in action this season in an exhibition against Northwood (FL) at the BJC. But before we get into that game, it's time to look at what the college basketball world thinks of the Nittany Lions heading into 2013-14. Below is a list of some esteemed college basketball writers (and Doug Gottlieb) and their predictions for Penn State's 2013-14 season:

Prognosticator Projected Conference Finish
Ken Pomeroy, 10th (79th overall)
Dan Hanner, 11th (117th overall)
Bradford Doolittle, 10th
Athlon Sports 10th
Stephen Bardo, 10th
Tom Dienhart, 10th
Sean Merriman, 11th
Brent Yarina, 9th
Big Ten Geeks, 11th
Gary Parrish, 12th
Jeff Borzello, 9th
Matt Norlander, 12th
Derg Gottleeb, 12th
Jerry Palm, 11th
John Rothstein, 9th
Austin Lederman, 7th

Most expect an improvement on last year's 12th place finish, but even the more optimistic predictions here would see Penn State finish in the NIT or worse. Such is the top-to-bottom strength of the B1G this season.

KenPom's projections are always interesting, and for his number machine to spit Penn State out as the 79th best team in the country is a compliment. I think. You can read his formula for preseason rankings here, and if it weren't for Penn State's five-year baseline of [NOT GOOD], the ranking would probably be a bit higher. Tim Frazier's return certainly helps in the personnel component.

Onto Sunday's exhibition. Northwood, coached by Villanova and Philly hoops legend Rollie Massimino, are traveling to State College all the way from West Palm Beach for this one. The Seahawks are ranked fifth in the preseason NAIA poll and finished 30-4 last year, so Penn State will be getting a test from a team and a coach that know how to win. Also a quick reminder: John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson won't be eligible until December and next season, respectively, so neither are eligible for this one, either. Here are three things to look for on Sunday:

1. The rotation

We already know that Donovon Jack and Brandon Taylor are joining Tim Frazier, D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis in the starting lineup to start the season. How Chambers plans to integrate the newcomers on Sunday could be telling; looking back on last year's exhibition against Philly U, Pat already had his main rotation figured out. If a freshman gets a DNP-CD, don't surprised to see a redshirt slapped on him. Payton Banks might be the only candidate for such treatment, assuming the need for a 6'10" body outweighs Julian Moore's need to bulk up.

Strategically, this game presents an opportunity to see if or how often Chambers will utilize the four-guard set. Logically, such a lineup would include Frazier at the point, but there's been talk of a lineup using Graham Woodward at the one, with Frazier and Newbill playing off-ball. That speaks to the coaching staff's trust in Woodward more than anything, and it would certainly be new to see Frazier running off screens as the two guard for the first time in his career.

2. The inside-out dilemma

Penn State's starting lineup has a weird feel to it - Frazier and Newbill are at their best attacking the rim, meanwhile Jack and Taylor are, if not great three-point shooters, inclined to drift to the perimeter on offense. Seeing how this dynamic works in game action should give us a good idea of how Chambers wants his big men to operate. Rebounding has been a strong point for the last two seasons, and the guards are above average rebounders, but I'm not sure this team can survive in the B1G without a high offensive rebounding rate.

3. New rules

This will be the first chance to see Penn State make good use of the "towel drill," Chambers' solution to ridding the team of its foul problems and adjusting to the new hand-check rules put in place this season. The Lions simply have to improve in this area - the 21.9 fouls per game they committed last season was tied for the third-most in the country.

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