bscaff: 20-11 (9-9); NCAA Tournament
Write it down, girls: the 2013-14 team dons its big boy pants, and makes the NCAA tournament. Oh sure, there are tons of questions, and the Big Ten is the bestest league of all times, and hand checking, and shooting percentage. But in a conference that lists Mitch McGary as a top returning player, Penn State runs 3 of the top 25 out on the court (Frazier, Newbill, and Travis). This team has talent, and there's no way the team can shoot as badly as it has for a 3rd year in a row. Last, I'm so far onto the Pat Chambers bandwagon that I'm practically steering the thing. We're enjoying this season from start to finish.
Devon: 16-15 (6-12); B1G finish: 10th.
I know I'm the downer here, but this is as optimistic as I can be. Honestly, I think 4 wins is more likely than 8, given the razor-thin margin for error. In a turnaround from Pat Chambers's first couple seasons, this will actually be a competitive team in the toughest conference in the country, and they'll be in most games, but the weaknesses are going to be too easily exploited by good basketball teams that will have someone, anyone, in the post.
This team's depth in the backcourt has long been established, and DJ Newbill shifting to the off-guard with the return of Tim Frazier ought to help conserve his energy so he can make, hopefully, a positive impact on the defensive end (that is to say, hopefully opposing teams won't continue to have wide-open outside looks on almost every position). Considering that Nick Colella was the team's first guard of the bench last year, Allen Roberts and John Johnson have to be a step up. And if Chambers can get anything from Thorpe or Woodward, a four-guard lineup might not be enough.
But I'm far less rosy on Donovon Jack and Brandon Taylor as everyone else seems to be. I know both were freshmen last year, but Taylor seems to think he's a shooting guard and can't stay out of foul trouble and Jack is about to be a 200-pound starting center who's also more comfortable on the perimeter than in the post. Ross Travis can ably defend forwards and guards, but he's not physically capable of going up against your Adreian Paynes, or Mitch McGaries, or any other big man any other Big Ten team can put on the court. And we all know how limited he is offensively, w/r/t shots outside of 5 feet. If he's willing to take the weak-side garbage scoring opportunities, maybe he can hit double figures without taking scoring chances away from the talented guards, but that's the closest thing Penn State will have to a post presence, and that's a terrifying conceit.
Jersey Nick: 17-14 (9-9) B1G Finish: 9th, NIT I guess?
I agree with Devon on the record here, although I initially was thinking 16-15, or 15-16 instead. The combination of Frazier/Newbill/Roberts/Johnson/Woodward/Thorpe is nothing to scoff at. This is an extremely talented combination of players fighting for limited playing time, and I expect we'll see more 4 guard sets than most would be comfortable with. That being the case, aside from Ross Travis, this frontcourt is nothing to be excited about. I still don't see anyone who can adequately defend the powerful big men that the Big Ten sports.
That being said, I do this our backcourt is good enough to steal more than a few games that we have no business winning, if things fall the right way. Whether it's thanks to having more than one player who can handle the ball (Timmy, DJ, Woodward), or having a multitude of shooters (All those mentioned plus all the rest of our awesome guards and Travis), I would not be surprised to see us take one from Michigan (AGAIN), Ohio State, or another perennial B1G powerhouse.
If we can get consistent surprised play from a big man (Think something along the lines of what Sasa became last year), then I could see this team jumping up to the 19-20 win range. That's really all they're missing. This is going to be a fun season regardless, and I for one am truly looking forward to it.
Bill: 19-12 (8-10); B1G finish: 8th, NIT berth
I desperately want to say this is a tournament team, and if they were literally in any other conference (sans the ACC), I'd say they are. Going to the NIT is more about the Big Ten and how insane the conference is, not a lack of talent or anything like that. I think that this team has the backcourt to make a lot of noise and scare some people. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are one of the best backcourts in the country, Allen Roberts and John Johnson both can ball, and Graham Woodward is going to be a three-point specialist that can actually make threes.
In the frontcourt, I think Ross Travis has a breakout year, and while Donovon Jack/B-Titty won't win Penn State any games, I don't think they cost Penn State any games, either. However, that's it. The cupboard isn't exactly overflowing with frontcourt players.
In the end, I think that a lack of depth up front and playing in the most brutal conference in America kills Penn State's tournament chances, but I think that with all the talent in the backcourt, the Nittany Lions play in some kind of postseason.
Chad: 19-12 (8-10); B1G finish: 8th, NCAA Tournament berth
I've waffled on my feelings about this team a ton over the past few months, soon after the pain and anguish of last season's Milhouse-a-palooza subsided. Really, we don't know a ton about what these players can do - just how effective will D.J. Newbill be playing off the ball? Can Donovon Jack handle being a starting center in the B1G? Will Tim Frazier stay healthy, and if he does, how will he adjust to not being the team's only offensive weapon? (pretty damn well, I quickly concluded.) The question I've asked myself the most, and the question that you or anyone has to ask when trying to predict the future of this team, is this: is this a "special" team? Because that's what it's going to take to even have a shot at the NCAA tournament in the pitfall-lined road that is this year's Big Ten.
And when you consider that question, and what "special" really means, it boils down to leadership. The 2010-11 NCAA tournament team had leadership - four seniors who had played together for four years. This 2013-14 team doesn't have that type of experience. But they do have Pat Chambers. And if you think Pat Chambers is *the* guy that can lead this program to the heights it has never been, then I think you have no choice but to believe that this is the team to launch everything. I choose to believe.
Tim: 21-10 (10-8) 6th in B1G
Well, somebody's gotta offset Devon Downer and also go beyond the status quo of others' predictions on here. So eff it, I'm going deep with my prediction. Pat Chambers has found himself in this type of roster scenario before (plenty of depth in the backcourt, lack thereof in the frontcourt) when he was part of the coaching staff at Villanova. The 2005-06 Villanova team, led by a four-guard starting lineup featuring Randy Foye and Allan Ray merely went on to win the Big East regular season title and earn itself a #1 seed for the NCAA tournament, making a deep run to the Elite Eight. Flash forward to 2013, Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill lead a deep backcourt that will certainly see itself running with four guards on the court at times, thanks in part to a lack of depth in the frontcourt.
Ah, but that frontcourt is Penn State's achilles heel, you say? I understand your concern, but if Sunday's exhibition against Northwood was any indication, we're going to see a much stronger and more confident Ross Travis who can either take it to the hole, or step back and drain mid-range jumpers. Donovon Jack may have the reputation of being a big man who plays on the perimeter, but he did record three blocks in the exhibition, FWIW. If he can even be somewhat of a nuisance against the Mitch McGarys of the Big Ten, then things won't be so bad, after all.
Also, I'm a life member of the Penn State Basketbro Society, which means self-deluded optimism is one of the ways I've managed to keep myself sane over the years.
Eric: 16-17 (6-12)
The optimism surrounding year three of the Pat Chambers' era is legitimate, but this just doesn't feel like 'the year' yet. I'm fully on-board the Ross Travis and Graham Woodward bandwagons, and I do think the additions of Allen Roberts and John Johnson will help steady a remarkably deep backcourt. I also believe Donovon Jack and Brandon Taylor have what it takes to compete in the Big Ten, but the lack of bodies up front is a huge concern. Any frontcourt injuries will really spell trouble for this bunch.
A challenging non-conference schedule along with another competitive year in the Big Ten doesn't instill confidence to me in a Big Dance berth for this team. They will flirt with the NIT, but I don't see enough horses up front to feel good about predicting it.
I'm saying 16-17, 6-12 in B1G. While that might seem pessimistic to some, all should be satisfied with a 6-game improvement from last season.
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