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Penn State vs Youngstown State Preview: The Micah Shrewsberry Era Begins

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The new-look Lions will tip their season off against the Penguins in Shrewsberry’s first season at the helm.

Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry speaks to the media during Big Ten media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

A busy offseason for the Nittany Lions is finally over, and Penn State tips its season off against the Youngstown State Penguins on Wednesday. Micah Shrewsberry will get his first taste of life as the head man, with this being his first head coaching gig after being an assistant for all of his career, up to this point.

The Lions have a number of new faces, but a core of Seth Lundy, John Harrar, Sam Sessoms, and Myles Dread will likely start along with one of the newcomers (i.e. Jalen Pickett), but Shrewsberry pointed out at Media days that no starters had yet been decided. We know that Greg Lee and Jevonnie Scott are unavailable for the opener, with the former sustaining an injury that will keep him on the bench for the first few weeks, and the latter still waiting on eligibility news from the NCAA. As a result, expect the Lions to test a lot of looks in the first couple of weeks, as the roster gets finalized.

Scouting the opposition

Youngstown State went 15-12 last season, 9-11 in conference play. They were ranked 171st in adjusted offense and 310 in adjusted defense by Kenpom. Like Penn State, the Penguins are also welcoming a number of new players, with returning starters Garrett Covington, Michael Akuchie, and Shemar Rathan-Mayes anchoring the group.

Covington averaged 12.5 points per game last season, on 49.8 shooting. Akuchie averaged 9.9 points to go along with his 8.3 rebounds per game. Lastly, Rathan-Mayes averaged 10.4 points in his freshman season, to go along with 2.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

What to watch for

“Everything” would be an appropriate answer here, as not only is this the first game of the season, but it’s also the first game under a new coach, and it’s that coach’s first game as the leading man! There’s a lot of excitement about the future of Penn State basketball, and it all starts on Wednesday.

On the court, it will be interesting too ee what kind of offense the Lions will run. Will it be the same fast-paced affair that we saw last season (125th in the nation at 69.1 possessions per game), or will we see a much slower pace, like Purdue saw last year (278th, 66.1).

Shrewsberry made a point to mention that his team was working on defense first, so it will be interesting to see if these Nittany Lions resemble more their former coach in defensive tenacity, or if they’ll look more like their interim’s version, a more aggressive, but less efficient affair.

Prediction

It’s the first game of the season, there are a lot of unknowns, but this is still a team that has some talent in its roster, facing a team that had an even bigger turnover and simply lacks the depth to keep up. Don’t be surprised if this is close early, but Lions pull away late. Penn State 86, Youngstown State 65.