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Penn State Basketball Preseason Predictions Roundtable

The BSD staff predicts the future. What could go wrong?

Penn State Nittany Lions players Kanye Clary, Ace Baldwin Jr. and Puff Johnson speak to the media during the Big Ten basketball media days at Target Center. Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s about that time. With the Penn State Nittany Lions getting ready to tip off for real on November 6, the staff got together to predict how the season will go. Without further ado, here’s what our friends think:

Lando: 15-14

I think the Nittany Lions will win the majority of their home games, but struggle on the road with the new squad, only managing one road victory. Ace Baldwin will delight fans, while Puff Johnson and Qudus Wahab will give Penn State a solid presence down low. Finishing over .500 will give this team a solid foundation in Year 1 of Mike Rhoades’ tenure.

Bennett: 15-16, 7-13 Big Ten

I think there are some nice pieces for Penn State and first-year coach Mike Rhoades to work with in 2023-24. At the same time, putting an entire team together and getting them to play at a level high enough for them to compete every night in the Big Ten is a tall task. I think the Lions pull at least one big upset in conference play and they’re in the mix for an NIT spot. But ultimately, the lack of front court depth and lack of consistent outside shooting pushes them to the bottom quarter of the conference.

Colin: 19-14, NIT bid

The relatively easy non-conference schedule should give Penn State several chances to pile up wins before the meat grinder of Big Ten play. Everyone is overlooking this team because of all the personnel lost from last year, but remember that Shrewsberry built his teams through the portal as well.

Mike Rhoades will bring back the defense we enjoyed in the late Chambers era. As a lifelong VCU fan, his defenses were so fun to watch. He used a variant of Shaka Smart’s Havoc defense, and in 4 of his last 5 seasons, VCU finished in the top 30 in D-1 in both turnovers forced % and field goal percentage defense, two major weak spots for Penn State last year.

The players I’m watching for the most are Leo O’Boyle and Zach Hicks, the two best outside shooters on this roster. We were spoiled last year watching the sharpest three-point shooting team PSU ever had. This team will have a more defensive identity, but they will need outside shooting threats to keep up in conference play.

Will: 17-14, 8-12 Big Ten

To be honest, I have no idea what to expect from this team. Mike Rhoades seems passionate about this program and has clearly brought in plenty of talent via the transfer portal, but it will understandably take a moment to gel, especially in the Big Ten.

Ace Baldwin and Kanye Clary should both be exciting to watch right off the bat, but from there you have to hope (and pray) that this team can hang with the size of other in-conference squads. I expect a hot start against some bad teams early, and even a solid win over Georgia Tech at Madison Square Garden right before Christmas, but the Big Ten is quite simply a gauntlet every single year.

Once conference play starts, things will get rocky, and a sub .500 record against those teams will hold Penn State back from an overly impressive year.

Ryan: 16-15

New coach, basically an entirely new roster, and a whole new era. Penn State will certainly regress from its red-hot run last year, but Mike Rhodes and his scrappy crew of transfer portal pickups, hired guns, and VCU rejects will be nothing if not fun to watch. I could see this team surprising folks, especially since it has a weak non-conference slate to get its feet under it. This group is a bit bigger than last year, but it may still be undermanned against the biggest of Big Ten opponents. I have my eye on Jameel Brown to finally come into his own and Kanye Clary to go full speed ahead after a solid freshman campaign. And, of course, Penn State fans are going to love Ace Baldwin.

Tim: 18-13, 8-12 in Big Ten

Ace Baldwin’s game may be quite different from Jalen Pickett’s but nonetheless, he will be the point guard that is the heart and soul of the team and the engine that helps the team run. I also really like Qudus Wahab providing a serious post presence, I had forgotten what that felt like after last season. The non-conference slate is pretty doable outside of that first game of the ESPN Events Invitational against Texas A&M. I see the Nittany Lions dropping the rematch from last March against the Aggies, but winning their other two games in the tournament. The Big Ten slate will be something to watch, as we’ll see just how well Mike Rhoades’ “havoc” system he’s brought with him from VCU will play out in his first year coaching in the conference. I think they can catch some opponents off guard and spring a couple of upsets, but they will also have their share of challenges. Right now, I have them pegged for eight conference wins, but could see that being a couple games lower or a couple games higher. If things click with this team, they could indeed find themselves back on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Eli: 16-15, 6-14 Big Ten

If Colorado on the football side is any indication, turning over nearly the entire roster in one season is just too much. Look no further than two seasons ago, when then-newly-hired coach Micah Shrewsberry had to replace half the roster. Mike Rhoades has to replace nearly 90% of the roster this time around.

I’m pleased with the fact that, unlike any of his predecessors, Rhoades got enough support to be able to pull in more talented players than any other coach was able to muster coming in. My issue, which cannot be stated enough, is having so many of them all at once. I’m also curious to see how the pseudo-Havoc system works in a league that already views defensive tenacity as the centerpiece of what they do. Penn State separated itself last season by doing something no one else was really doing in the Big Ten, now, they’re going to try to do the thing everyone else in the Big Ten does, but better. Let’s see how things play out.

All that said, even if they did want to be a pure shooting team —Joe Crispin wouldn’t be here if they weren’t at least trying to, you really only have two players on the roster with any sort of reputation for being pure shooters. Can that be enough to steal some games in the Big Ten? I really don’t know.

Ultimately, things come down to how soon does this new roster jel together, and how effective the new scheme is at out-B1Ging Big Ten teams.