Somewhat surprisingly this preseason Penn State’s basketball team is ranked 40th in KenPom’s preseason ratings. In the seven years where preseason rankings have been available, this is the highest rating the Nittany Lions have gained. The highest before that was 2011, where they ranked 55 and finished 46, losing to Temple on a last second shot in the first round of the NCAA tournament. From 2011 onward, here’s how the Nittany Lions have peformed in KenPom’s pre-to-postseason rankings:
Excepting the one season where Tim Frazier went down with injury (which coincided with Penn State’s toughest schedule overall under Chambers at #6), the Nittany Lions have finished within 26 spots of their projections. Three times they outperformed the projections, and another three times they underperformed.
If KenPom’s trajectory continues to hold for these Nittany Lions, it could mean anywhere from a ranking of 66 to 30 to end the season. One extreme has Penn State as a bubble team in likely need of help, while the other has them firmly in the tournament picture. The overall point, though, is that KenPom seems to consistently pick Penn State accurately enough to feel confident going into the season.
All that said, this will mean nothing if the team doesn’t perform when it’s time to step on the court. Chambers’ crew has an opportunity in front of them, being the only team to return all five starters from the previous season in recent memory. The talent has been upgraded, experience has been distributed evenly, and the schedule sets itself up to get wins.
Whether Penn State can take advantage of all that’s going for them before the season will make the difference between an NCAA tournament bid and a new coach come season’s end.