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Penn State Basketball First Impressions Roundtable

How is our basketball staff feeling about the program after two wins over mid-major squads?

NCAA Basketball: Fairleigh Dickinson at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The basketball season is so young that it’s just a little baby, but there’s still plenty to react to from Penn State’s first two games. Will the rise of Tony Carr push his star power past that of Talor Battle? How much did the team need Mike Watkins out there? What’s going on with Shep Garner? The Lions haven’t faced a “measuring stick” opponent yet, but we can still try to sort out how good they are, even if there is a lot of room to grow.

Here’s what we had to say about the 86-75 win over Campbell and the 81-57 thrashing of Fairleigh Dickinson from last weekend.

Tim: Whatever they are paying Mike Watkins' tutors, pay them more. Also, let's hope that the injury bug doesn't strike Mr. Watkins either, because if he's out for any significant amount of time, then PSU's postseason hopes go with him, as he is the only post player on this team capable of doing real damage. With that being said, it's nice to see Tony Carr take command of the team at the point and average a red-hot 26.5 points per game on the season, as well as seeing Josh Reaves and Lamar Stevens pick up where they left off from last season. Nazeer Bostick is helping to provide some quality bench depth that seemed to be missing last year, as he is a good source of defense who can also get you points here and there. It would be nice though, if this team would start off shooting the ball better to open the game. Slow starts won't kill them against Campbell or Fairleigh Dickinson, but they will certainly dig this team a deep hole against an opponent with a pulse.

Rowen: Two games into a pivotal season for Pat Chambers, and the team has stayed on track. The importance of having Mike Watkins in the lineup is clear to anyone who has seen him play, either this year or last. When he's playing, Penn State has enough talent to hang with most teams on their schedule. When he's not playing, they'll need career-high performances from Tony Carr. Speaking of Carr, he's proving himself to be one of the best point guards in the country. His play will open things up for his teammates. What I saw from Jamari Wheeler and Nazeer Bostick so far has impressed me. Their ability to provide a spark coming off the bench could be crucial in close games in conference this year. Sure, there's plenty of room for improvement. The number of turnovers yesterday is a problem that needs to be addressed. We won't have a great sense of what the team is capable of until next Tuesday when they will play either Oklahoma State or Texas A&M in Brooklyn. For now, they just need to keep winning the games they're expected to win.

Aaron: It’s awesome that two of our offseason hopes for Penn State are already coming into fruition. First of all, Tony Carr looks like a bona fide star who is capable of carrying this team through a rough night. Second, Josh Reaves is getting more offense in, with 32 total points so far. He showed off his versatility against Fairleigh Dickinson by stuffing the stat sheet with nine rebounds, four assists, and four steals. That game against the Knights also showcased an improvement from Lamar Stevens, who fouled out of the Campbell game after turning the ball over six times and scoring just eight points. Shep Garner, on the other hand, has been a big disappointment in both games by going 2-for-16 from the field. Since the senior doesn’t do much other than shoot threes, some of those have got to start going in over the next few games. If they don’t, it might be time for this team to get even younger.

Chris: Tony Carr continues to emerge as the leader on the team. The Lions played 10 players or more in each game and the supporting players looked as though they are prepared to be productive this season. It will be fun to see what the team can do when it uses the press with Reaves, Bostick, and Wheeler in the game at the same time. The speed and instincts that the trio brings is unique. The first game was one that may have been lost in recent years, as the Lions struggled late in the game to hold the lead they built. Versus Fairleigh Dickinson, Pat Chambers did better with that, letting a 28-point lead shrink to 17 before stretching it back to 24.

The team has enough talent, and probably more importantly mental toughness, to gut out a win versus a lessor talented team. This could be a good sign, one that may come in handy during the Big Ten season. There will be at least a few games where the Lions will be in a position to win, needing only the ability to avoid scoring droughts and keeping constant intensity to hold off their foe. What I saw was a team that has all the parts that it needs to make a run for the NCAA Tournament. Now it has to continue to gel, continue to grow and gain consistency, and stay on the happy side of games that it should win.