Yesterday we talked about why Penn State fans should be excited about the 2017-18 basketball team. There’s loads of talent coming back, and much of it has plenty of room to grow. Still, this is Nittany Lions Basketball we’re talking about. There are still plenty of reasons for fans to be hesitant. Here are three of the biggest ones.
The 2017 recruiting class isn’t exactly star-studded
Josh Reaves, Mike Watkins, Tony Carr, and Lamar Stevens are all projected starters this November, and all four guys were signed in the last two recruiting classes. Those two classes happened to be the most talented in Penn State Basketball history, so we were hoping they were a sign of more to come from Pat Chambers and his Philadelphia pipeline.
It turns out, though, that we may need to take a break from expecting top-100 recruits to populate every single class. The 2017 version appears to give Chambers the depth he needs to fill out a decent eight-man rotation, but it’s lacking the upside and star power that made the 2015 and 2016 classes so exciting. Without that upside, the 2017-18 season will rely heavily on Carr, Stevens, and company continuing to grow as basketball players. Many fans think they can do it, but if they don’t, the help coming off the bench isn’t going to carry the team to a tournament bid.
This team could have the same issues as last year’s team
Penn State made strides defensively last year thanks to the emergence of Watkins and the continued fire and desire from Reaves, but the offense still left much to be desired. The biggest issue is that the Lions aren’t good at shooting, and that could be something that persists into the 2017-18 campaign. We mentioned yesterday how Stevens improved his jumper as the season wore on, but Carr had no such luck and ended up shooting 32 percent from deep and 38 percent overall. Those rates have got to improve if Penn State is going to put together any semblance of an efficient offense.
Carr will probably boost his shooting percentages as he gains experience and figures out how to get to his favorite spots, but Shep Garner shot worse in his junior year than he did as a sophomore. The guy that we expected to lead the Lions in scoring last year was too inconsistent of a factor to be counted on every night. There will only be more frustrating scoring outputs in 2018 if Garner doesn’t become a more stable shooter.
The rest of the conference isn’t getting worse
Sure, there are a lot of experienced players leaving the conference. Wisconsin and Michigan in particular will be saying goodbye to a lot of production, and Purdue could lose Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan to the NBA Draft. However, there’s also more than enough returning talent to keep Penn State out of the top half of the league.
Michigan State was extraordinarily young last season and is expected to welcome back potential lottery pick Miles Bridges. Maryland also has plenty of young studs to rely on even if Melo Trimble leaves. There’s also teams like Northwestern and Minnesota that will be bringing back most of the players that made them such pleasant surprises in 2016-17.
The bottom line is that Penn State fans have learned not to expect the rest of the conference to fall down to them, and this year will be no exception.