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Breaking Down the Men's Basketball Non-Conference Schedule

The Nittany Lions will travel to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston, and Las Vegas before heading into Big Ten play.

Don't be surprised to see the team employ more huddles, like this one, in 2015-16.
Don't be surprised to see the team employ more huddles, like this one, in 2015-16.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State men's basketball team announced its non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 season on Tuesday. Many of the opponents, dates, and locations were already known to fans, but there is some new information provided here, most notably the decision to play a pair of games in Rec Hall.

As has become his custom, head coach Patrick Chambers has scheduled plenty of winnable games in recruiting areas. Another game in the Duquesne series will bring them to Pittsburgh, and the home-and-home with George Washington takes them down to D.C. On top of that, a game against Drexel will be held in Philadelphia at the famed Palestra, while the Big Ten/ACC Challenge will take Penn State to Boston College. With a game at Madison Square Garden scheduled against Michigan during conference play, the team is going to get exposure all over the northeastern United States this season.

In addition, Penn State is in another non-conference tournament, this time the Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena. The two opening games are home games for Penn State, facing off against Canisius and UL-Monroe. The team will then travel to Vegas after the game against Drexel for the final two games of the tournament, where the squad will take on Colorado and either SMU or Kent State.

Day Date Opponent H/A Arena City Notes
Friday November 13 VMI H Bryce Jordan Center University Park, PA
Tuesday November 17 DePaul H Bryce Jordan Center University Park, PA Gavitt Games
Friday November 20 Duquesne A Consol Energy Center Pittsburgh, PA
Tuesday November 24 Radford H Bryce Jordan Center University Park, PA
Saturday November 28 Bucknell H Bryce Jordan Center University Park, PA
Wednesday December 2 Boston College A Conte Forum Chestnut Hill, MA B1G/ACC Challenge
Saturday December 5 Eastern Michigan H Bryce Jordan Center University Park, PA
Tuesday December 8 George Washington A Charles Smith Center Washington, DC
Thursday December 10 Canisius H Rec Hall University Park, PA Las Vegas Classic
Saturday December 12 Louisiana-Monroe H Rec Hall University Park, PA Las Vegas Classic
Saturday December 19 Drexel A The Palestra Philadelphia, PA
Tuesday December 22 Colorado N Orleans Arena Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas Classic
Wednesday December 23 SMU/Kent State N Orleans Arena Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas Classic

Some of these schools have been on Penn State's schedule a number of times in recent years.


As is typical for Penn State, the first game of the season is a home game against a low-ranked Division I program. This year, it's VMI. The Virginia Military Institute should not provide much of a challenge for the Nittany Lions, but it will be a cool experience for long-time fans to see former Penn State player Dan Earl manning the bench for the Keydets. VMI is also revered for its style of play, as the squad is constantly among the top-10 teams nationally in points per game. There's no word on whether Earl will change up the team's run-and-gun style.


As a refresher, the Gavitt Games are the new, annual Big Ten-Big East challenge. Penn State's first draw in this series is DePaul, and it's a favorable one for Penn State. DePaul has been near the bottom of the Big East for nearly a decade, with their last NCAA Tournament appearance occurring in 2004. The head coach of that team was Dave Leiteo ... who was just re-hired by the Blue Demons after they fired Oliver Purnell. DePaul returns most of their lineup, and actually had a solid offense last season. Their defense, on the other hand, was dreadful, and they should allow Penn State's young players plenty of opportunities to get an offensive rhythm going.


Penn State fans are now familiar with the Dukes, as they've been a regular on the non-conference schedule since the days of Ron Everhart. Penn State is 4-1 against Duquesne since the 2010-11 season, with the only loss coming in 2011-12, the first year of the Chambers era. The Nittany Lions held them off 64-62 last season, with Shep Garner and Donovon Jack scoring 13 points and 11 points, respectively. The leading scorers for each team in last season's game, Geno Thorpe (19 points) and Jordan Stevens (18 points), have both since transferred.


After a four-year break, Radford is back on the schedule. In their last game in the 2011-12 season, Penn State beat the Highlanders 62-46. Radford is a much improved program since that time, but they should still be a team that Penn State takes care of at home.


Bucknell is another team that has been on Penn State's radar recently. This will be their fourth match-up in a row, with Penn State taking two of the three games played. The Bison continued to shoot the three well against Penn State in last season's game, but the Nittany Lions pulled out the win 88-80. Penn State will need to have answers defensively for returning senior wing Chris Hass, a dangerous three-point shooter who the Bison run much of their offense through.

Boston College

For the third time in five years, Penn State will face Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They split their games in 2012 and 2013, with both squads winning at the other's arena. As Chad noted in May when this game was announced, Boston College is down three of its top players due to graduation. The Eagles will have a young roster that includes a former Penn State recruiting target in forward Johncarlos Reyes.

Eastern Michigan

The Eagles of Ypsilanti run much of their offense through the spectacularly named Raven Lee. Eastern Michigan played several of the teams on Penn State's 2015-16 schedule last season. They most notably knocked off Michigan in Ann Arbor, though they lost to Michigan State, Kent State (a possible opponent), and Lousiana-Monroe.

George Washington

Penn State's signature out-of-conference win a year ago was a 64-51 win against GW that was an even more dominating win than the score indicated. In that game, Brandon Taylor had 17 points and Jordan Dickerson blocked the Colonials six times. This year's game will be on the road against a team that will be out for revenge. GW will be without guard Kethan Savage, who is transferring to Butler. The Colonials will rely heavily on a trio of seniors in guard Joe McDonald, wing Patricio Garino, and forward Kevin Larsen.


The first two games of the Las Vegas Classic are home games for Penn State, starting with a Thursday tilt against Buffalo-based Canisius. The game will have added interest now that it is known to be a Return to Rec game. Junior guard Zach Lewis is the star of their team, and he'll be shouldering a heavy load after starting point guard Jeremiah Williams and starting center Josiah Heath both graduated.


The second Vegas Classic and Return to Rec game is against Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks has a solid defense last season but a very weak offense. Point guard Nick Coppola is a workhorse who plays nearly every minute of every game and has a good three-point stroke.


Drexel never led after scoring the first basket of the game last season at the PPL Center in Allentown, though they made a late run to at least make it interesting as the Nittany Lions held on 73-68. This year's game will again be at a neutral site, though this time right in Drexel's backyard at the Palestra in Philadelphia. The Dragons lost their top player from a year ago in Damion Lee, who transferred to Louisville. It will likely be Tavon Allen leading the way for Drexel this year. The big unknown for the Dragons is redshirt sophomore Ahmad Fields, who comes to Philadelphia by way of Utah and has a big seal of approval from friend of the site/City of Basketball Love boss Josh Verlin.


The first game in Vegas will see the Nittany Lions taking on the Buffaloes. Jordan Dickerson will have a tough assignment going up against senior center and NBA prospect Josh Scott in the paint.

SMU/Kent State

Penn State's final non-conference opponent will be dependent on both their result against Colorado and the result of SMU-Kent State. The Golden Flashes could very well be their opponent here, but we know what we want to see. Patrick Chambers against Larry Brown is the matchup this blog has been waiting for. Make it happen, basketball gods.