As with any coaching change, Penn State lost a number of contributors at the end of last season. As it happens, the Nittany Lions will face at least two of them this season, the first one coming up in this game, as Trent Buttrick leads the UMass Minutemen on Monday night.
UMass played a shortened season last year, going 8-7 overall, and 6-4 in conference play. Their biggest contributor in Tre Mitchell is now suiting up for the Texas Longhorns, but they still return a good core of players from last year, so they are overall experienced, and were not as gutted by the transfer portal as the Nittany Lions were. And, as the line suggest, this contest fares to be close throughout.
Scouting the Opposition
We all know Trent Buttrick. He spend the previous four seasons suiting up for our very own Nittany Lions. He’s currently leading the team in points and rebounds. He also seems to have found his stroke, as he’s currently sitting at 40% from beyond the arc on 10 tries. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, he’s also shooting 83.3% at the free throw line.
Aside from Buttrick, Noah Fernandes, TJ Weeks, Dyondre Dominguez, and Javohn Garcia all return, while newcomer Rich Kelly leads the team in assists. The aforementioned Kelly is also shooting at a 50% clip from three, on six shots so far in the season.
What to Watch For
The battle between Buttrick and John Harrar should be quite fun. Two former teammates who will now go head to head inside, can Harrar establish himself as the better option from the get go?
Youngstown State got hot from three at times last time out, and UMass has shown that they can too if allowed. Can Penn State guard the perimeter better than they did against the Penguins?
UMass is 71st in the country in adjusted tempo at 72.1 possessions, and Penn State, while, ranked 257th, still had 69 possession in their last game. Expect this one to be a track meet.
It’s a road game, early, against a team that probably won’t be a pushover the rest of the way. I’ll give the slight edge to Penn State, simply because Harrar is still a better option than Buttrick. Penn State 89, UMass 85