On Wednesday, Penn State Basketball announced the non-conference schedule for for the upcoming 2018-19* season. While most of the games were already known, the surprise inclusion of a home and home series with the Alabama Crimson Tide highlights an already upgraded slate for the year.
The Nittany Lions will open up the season against North Florida as part of the Cancun Challenge, followed by the second game in the series against Jacksonville State. This would be the first meeting against both teams. Shortly after those games is Penn State’s matchup against DePaul in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Nittany Lions’ last entry in the event, also against DePaul, resulted in a 68-62 win. Another recent opponent, the Virginia Tech Hokies, makes its way to Happy Valley once again as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The last meeting between the two teams, a 61-58 victory, gave Pat Chambers his first victory against a Buzz Williams-coached team. Last, but certainly not least, the matchup against NC State will be a rematch of last season’s Big Ten/ACC challenge, a narrow defeat at the hands of the Wolfpack. Closing out the non-conference is the first team to have ever beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as a 16-seed, the UMBC Retrievers.
All in all, the schedule is a major upgrade over last season’s and could rival (maybe even surpass) 2016’s in terms of difficulty. If the Nittany Lions are able to get their fair share of victories out of this slate, making the NCAA Tournament will only be a matter of taking care of business in conference play.
*Starting this upcoming season, the Big Ten moved to 20 conference games, leaving at most 11 games in the non-conference.