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MMQB: Is Penn State Basketball For Real?

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Pat Chambers' squad sits at 10-1. Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?

Brett Carlsen-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Penn State basketball picked up win number ten against their toughest test to date-George Washington University. One of the criticisms of this team to this point was their inability to dominate a game against a lesser opponent. Well, not only were the Lions finally able to pull off a 13 point win that felt even more lopsided, but they were able to do it over KenPom's 65th ranked team in the country.

The Penn State defense was stifling. They mixed things up from zone to man, sometimes as quickly as possession to possession. It had a very clear effect on the normally-efficient, George Washington offensive attack. Geno, Shep, DJ, and Johnson provided their usual solid defense outside the perimeter, but the big difference-maker on the day was Jordan Dickerson. He was credited with six blocks for the game, but was a factor on many more than those six. He was a constant presence in the paint, and forced George Washington into taking more low percentage, obstructed looks at the hoop. It was beautiful to watch, and anyone else who tuned in surely has begun thinking about what Dickerson's future at Penn State could hold. If he can continue to invoke fear within the souls of those who venture into his dominion, this defense will continue to be one of the stronger units in the country.

The other thing that stood out in this game was the variety of ways in which Penn State was able to score. Everyone and their mother knows about DJ Newbill and his ability to score at will when he's on. However, what will make Penn State dangerous for any opponent will be their ability to lean on multiple players as scoring options. Newbill led the team with 20 points in this game, but Brandon Taylor was close behind with 17. Shep Garner added 10 of his own, and Geno Thorpe chipped in 8 as well. At various times this season, we have seen all of these players carry the team. Shep and Taylor are nearly unstoppable when they have things working for them behind the arc. Geno Thorpe has shown that he can drive to the rim, no matter the number of defenders in front of him. John Johnson was held scoreless yesterday, but has gone for double digits multiple times already this year. Donovon Jack has flashed an improved offensive game when he's been on the floor. Even Payton Banks has had his moments of sharpshooting brilliance. Make no mistake, this is not a Talor Battle/Tim Frazier team of old. When the first option on this team is struggling, they've shown the ability to let someone else take over.

Penn State sits at ten wins and one loss right now. Their wins have come over Morgan State, Fordham, Cornell, USC, Akron, Bucknell, Virginia Tech, Marshall, Duquesne, and George Washington. Their only loss came in double overtime to Charlotte. They finish up their non-conference schedule next weekend/early next week with Drexel and Dartmouth, before heading into their new year's eve showdown with Wisconsin. There is a very real chance that the Lions will be 12-1 when they take on one of the best teams in the country, in the Badgers.

What does that mean though? No, it hasn't been the toughest schedule so far this year, and the games will look very different once Big Ten play starts. But shouldn't 10-1 count for something? They've proven they can win the close games. They've proven they can win when their leader is having an off night. They're improving on defense. They're improving on offense. You could argue that we still haven't even seen the best from this team. It's possible that what we saw yesterday against the Colonials was close to their peak, but is it really unreasonable to expect John Johnson to add a few points on any given day? Is it unreasonable to think Donovon Jack can continue to use his strong, and still improving post moves to lead to a few more buckets? Is it unreasonable to expect at least a few points from the Dickerson/Travis/Moore combination? Chambers had his team ready to go on Sunday for their biggest game of the young season, and they still have room to improve. Is that enough for you, casual Penn State basketball fan?

Do you believe in this Penn State team? Are they destined to make some noise in the Big Ten/NCAA Tournament/NIT? Do you need to see them in Big Ten play before making any decisions? What else do you feel like you need to see from them? Will they be ranked any time soon? Did you catch the Queen reference in the teaser? SO MANY QUESTIONS.