Due to Covid protocols, the Nittany Lions were unable to get their season started on Wednesday, along with the rest of college basketball. Instead, they open their season on Saturday against Virginia Military Institute, who did play earlier this week and has already earned their first win of the season.
Coached by former Nittany Lion Dan Earl, VMI brings a Kenpom rank of 277 into the contest, which, while not exceptional, is a far cry from the likes of Central Connecticut State, and some of the other names Penn State saw last season.
Speaking of the Nittany Lions, we’ll see how this team feels right off the bat. If you listened to the Midnight Domino Show from last Friday (Talor Battle), the team is ready to “win some games.” This will be their first opportunity to achieve that goal.
Scouting the opposition
VMI actually returns a few players that saw significant time last season. Center Jake Stephens, and guards Myles Lewis, Sean Conway, Kamdyn Curfman, and Greg Parham all return for the Keydets, as well as reserve Louis Tang. This makes for an experience-on-experience matchup for the Nittany Lions, something you don’t usually see with these kinds of games.
VMI also likes to play with tempo, so, this could be an up and down affair on Saturday, with two teams looking to keep pace for much of the contest. In their game against St. Andrews, the Keydets played 15 different players (yes, some of that was due to garbage time), and only one player eclipsed the 20 minute mark. For a team that wants to run, VMI seems like the perfect opportunity to test their depth.
What to watch for
No disrespect to VMI, but there shouldn’t be much to watch for other than when the walk-ons come into the game. In fact, if the starters if the starters are still playing 15 minutes into the second half, we’re probably in for a long season.
The Lions should be able to coast through this game, hopefully giving folks like Sam Sessoms and Abdou Tsimibila some time on the court with the team in a low-pressure situation. Penn State 89, VMI 66.