|Who:||Morgan State Bears|
|Where:||Bryce Jordan Center|
|Line:||N/A, PSU -16 via Kenpom.com|
It's finally basketball season. Tonight marks the start of a crucial year for Pat Chambers, his fourth at Penn State. We've provided all of our season preview content in one handy link right here, so let's take some time to look at the Morgan State Bears.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Morgan State is a premiere member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, one of college basketball's worst-rated leagues. While the MEAC has typically been pretty terrible in the conference rankings, Morgan State has usually been an annual contender for this league's crown. They won their conference's auto-bid in 2009 and 2010 and have been in the MEAC championship four other times under 9th year head coach, Todd Bozeman (the former California head coach).
This is important for when #basic metrics, such as the Ratings Percentage Index, utilize nothing more than win percentage to calculate their rankings, especially when this criteria has an impact on whether you are a viable team for March Madness. Since the Bears are likely to have a winning conference record, their RPI impact is not as bad as say, Maryland Eastern Shore, who went 6-24 last season. Todd Bozeman's teams have gone 89-41 in the MEAC over his coaching tenure
While the Bears had a solid conference season last year, they fell one win short in the MEAC championship for the elusive opportunity to play as a 16-seed in the play-in round. That honor went North Carolina Central. It will be difficult to replace over 75% of their production from a year ago, but the Bears were still picked to finish 3rd in their conference' preseason poll.
Morgan State has huge shoes to fill after their 1st-team All-MEAC duo of Ian Chiles and Justin Black graduated. The two former seniors combined for 34.5 points per game. Their best returning starter is Cedric Blossom, a 6-6 power forward who's a great offensive rebounder, but not much of a scorer (58.4 Min%, 106.9 ORtg, 16.1 Poss%). The coach's son, Blake Bozeman, also returns in the backcourt as a senior, but the 2-guard was not much of a shooter last season (38.4 eFG%, 88.5 ORtg). The starting point guard will be junior Donte Pretlow, but his shooting last year can't be described in any other way but abominable (33.7% on 2's, 11.3% from 3, 27.9% eFG%). The Bears ranked 350th last season in 3P%, so don't expect to see a ton of 3's rain down in the BJC tonight.
Outside of that, your guess is as good as mine on who emerges for Todd Bozeman. They do have two big graduate transfers in CSU Bakerfield transfer Zech Smith (7-0, 270) and USF transfers Jordan Omogbehin (7-3, 315) that should be mentioned for their sheer size, but neither had very promising careers at either of their prior schools. Morgan State is one of the perennial contenders of this conference, so it's not likely they fall off the cliff, but Bozeman will need a lot of answers for his team to be as good as they were last year. He likely is not going to get them all tonight.
Let's be real, no one really cares about Morgan State anyway. This is an opponent PSU should beat with ease. The anticipation solely surrounds Penn State for this evening's game. Who's going to start? Do they have better shooters this year? Can they stop fouling so much? Who's in the rotation? What can the newcomers provide?
I do not have all of the answers, but I do wish to revise my starting lineup prediction for this evening since our podcast. I will go with Jordan Dickerson, Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis, Geno Thorpe and DJ Newbill as Pat Chambers' starting 5 to start the season. That group includes two seniors, two juniors and a rising sophomore by the way. Experience across the board is something that's been lacking in this program since Talor Battle graduated.
We'll get our first glimpse of Nittany Lion basketball tonight at 7:00pm. To further clarify your TV options, this game will not be televised on the Big Ten Network. A web stream is available via the BTN's new BTN-Plus service, a subscription-based service that provides additional web stream content of PSU athletics that is not available anywhere else. For Nittany Lion basketball, only tonight's game and the December 22nd home contest against Dartmouth will be broadcasted there. Just be aware that this new subscription is different from last year's usual GoPSUSports' All-Access subscription.
If you are not interested in paying for this game, you can either buy a ticket and go (because there are a ton of promotions) or be sure to follow along on Twitter and here at BSD for all the latest updates from the season opener.
No need to get fancy here. Penn State takes care of business against the new-look Bears and wins handily, 82-61. Brandon Taylor is your player of the game, while Chambers plays 12 guys in the blowout. What do you expect from tonight's season opener?