This is it folks! The time has come. The Penn State Nittany Lions basketball team will officially tip off on Tuesday! Our preseason coverage will conclude with, as always, our preseason round table outlining what the staff things will go on this season. Let’s get right to it!
Q: Penn State is getting some hype this year, both from the computers and the humans. Do you buy it? Why (not)?
Clay: I’ll believe it when it I see. Penn State has received hype in both categories for the better part of the last four years and the most it’s resulted in is an NIT title run. So you’ll excuse me if I have to see it first.
Chris: Yes, I buy it. The sports broadcasters have seen what Chambers has been doing in recent years and know how close he has been to making the NCAA tournament the past two years. The team’s final Net Ranking last year was 49, so while some fans lost touch of what the team was doing when the record went south, the sports writers and computers know full well that only 3 teams ranked higher than PSU last year failed to make the NCAA tournament.
Marty: Yes. This team has all the talented needed to make a long overdue return to the NCAA Tournament. They need a scorer to step up alongside Lamar Stevens and to be more consistent offensively. Mike Watkins needs to stay on the court and to play at a high level, too. But all the pieces are there to go dancing.
Lando: I’ll believe the hype when I see the production on the court. I have been burned too often by paper titles and perceived talent.
Tim: I buy it to some extent. If Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins both stay healthy and out of foul trouble, if somebody other than Myles Dread can become a reliable source of 3-point shooting, and if Izaiah Brockington is able to replicate Josh Reaves’ defensive tenacity, then an NCAA Tournament bid is certainly possible. After seeing how the last couple of years have played out with comparable talent though, I’m not holding my breath for too long.
Eli: I’m buying what the media is selling. Over the course of eight seasons, Penn State has gotten increasingly better, and like a great asymptote, they’ve gotten infinitely close to the promise land in terms of metrics. This is the year where the wins finally follow.
Q: Who is your breakout player?
Clay: Myles Dread - Dread was good last year as a freshman. He has a chance to be great as a sophomore and Penn State needs him to be great because, once again, this team has a dearth of knockdown shooters.
Chris: Seth Lundy. He’s going to be a future star and this year he will be very useful, his offense especially. His mid-range presence on the court is similar to Stevens’. Teams that chase him out to the foul line will have to stop his drive. Teams that don’t rush out to him at the foul line will watch him hit the shot over their heads. He’ll post up smaller players and pass out of the low-post to Watkins, Stevens, Brockington and others for dunks. It’s going to be fun to watch.
Marty: Myles Dread
Lando: Jamari Wheeler
Tim: Myreon Jones - With Rasir Bolton gone, it’s time for Myreon to step up and become another reliable perimeter shooter.
Eli: Mike Watkins - I’m not sure if it counts as a breakout when we already know a player is great, but I see Watkins going back to his previous self, and improving upon previous years now that he’s playing his last season as a Nittany Lion. Every preseason interview, appearance, or otherwise public activity, showed a different Watkins than we’ve seen before. It really looks like he’s taking care of his offseason challenges to focus on the task at hand. It also doesn’t hurt seeing that he dominated in Penn State’s exhibition game.
Q: How can Penn State avoid another 0-10 start in conference play this season?
Clay: Just when I had forgotten just how terrible last year was. I don’t think the changes need to be drastic because it seems almost impossible to start 0-10 given the decent talent level. Just hit more shots and get more open shots and show the slightest bit of a pulse defensively.
Chris: They will be fine. I know some people will worry if PSU comes out 3-5 in conference, or has a lull during the year. In the end, Penn State is a better team than their opponent now, not just barely chasing teams like Maryland, Ohio State, Minnesota, and so on. The Lions will be in the top third talent-wise, so more often than not they will be the better team on the court. I expect a conference record above .500, but remember, the Crispin-led Sweet 16 team finished 7-9 in conference that year, so don’t lose faith!
Marty: As long as they show up to those 10 games they have to win at least 1 of them, right?
Lando: The Nittany Lions need to get balanced scoring, especially from their bench. Relying too much on Stevens, as well as not having consistent post production all game long (so keeping big men out of foul trouble is essential) is a death sentence.
Tim: Play with some swagger/confidence, allow Lamar and Mike to take over games. Don’t let one loss get themselves down and allow it to snowball into an avalanche of losses.
Eli: Beat Maryland at home on December 10th. It really is that simple. The Nittany Lions haven’t lost to the Terrapins at home since Maryland’s first season as a Big Ten member, and if Penn State can keep that going, not only will they avoid an insurmountable hole in conference play, they’re going to put the rest of the conference on notice, and show that this team isn’t going to **** around this time.
Q: Who will be the annual scalp for Pat Chambers’ crew?
Clay: Sparty on 3/3
Chris: Maryland Eastern Shore. To borrow a page from coach Franklin, the team and the fans should try to enjoy this season one game at a time. Penn State could beat any team on the schedule, so no big win would surprise me.
Marty: Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point. But if it does, it’ll likely be Coach Chambers himself.
Lando: Maryland at home.
Tim: Oh, what the hell...Michigan State (at home).
Eli: I’m also going with Maryland at home, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lions beat Michigan State on Senior Night, to send Watkins and Stevens out with a bang.
Q: And the annual WTF loss?
Clay: Does Yale count? We’ll go with Yale on 11/23.
Chris: Maryland Eastern Shore. I doubt Penn State will lose the game, but that’s as far ahead as I will be prognosticating. It’s basketball. Losses happen. We’ll know at the end which is the worst of the year, but during the year, in real time, it is hard to tell. Teams like Bucknell from years past, or Maine, that have bit the team, actually had good teams the year that it happened, near tourney-caliber teams. So it was more a shock to the fans than a WTF loss. We’ll see.
Marty: at Northwestern
Tim: Rutgers on the road.
Eli: Chris stop being a party pooper! As I mentioned last week, I think that, if Penn State is to lose an inexplicable game this season, it’s going to be against Bucknell. The Bison always get up for this game, and they have the most history with the Lions of all the non-conference opponents. Pray this team is past those WTF losses, though.
Q: Alright, the reason we’re all here. What’s your projected record?
Tim: 19-12 (w/9-10 win Big Ten slate)
Eli: Predictions are tough. But I’m sticking with last season’s prediction of 21-10. Lose one or two in conference, win a good portion of games in the second half of the Big Ten season, and have a record that finally matches the advanced stats.
What about you, dear reader? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.