Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season. We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The Penn State Nittany Lions 2012-13 season was quickly derailed when point guard Tim Frazier suffered a ruptured left Achilles injury just four games into his senior year. Frazier was granted a fifth year of eligibility but Penn State will once again face an uphill climb to try and become a relevant team in the extremely competitive Big Ten Conference.
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
Last Season: 12th, 2-16 in Big Ten, 10-21 overall
Predicted Big Ten Finish: 12th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Ross Travis (Jr)/Alex Wisniewski (Sr)/Julian Moore (Fr)
PF: Brandon Taylor (So)/Donovan Jack (So)
G/F: D.J. Newbill (Jr)/Payton Banks (Fr)
SG: Allen Roberts (Sr)/John Johnson (So)
PG: Tim Frazier (Sr)/Geno Thorpe (Fr)/Graham Woodward (Fr)
Gone: G/F-Jermaine Marshall (transfer-Arizona State), F/C-Sasa Boronjvak, SG-Nick Colella, F/C-Jon Graham (transfer), PF-Pat Ackerman (transfer), G/F-Akosa Maduegbunam (transfer)
Frazier led the Penn State Nittany Lions in pretty much every major statistical category two years ago but won’t have to do it all by himself this year. Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill stepped into the lead guard role last year averaging 16.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. They should form a dynamic duo capable of doing a little bit of everything but who else can chip in?
The team suffered a huge loss when Jermaine Marshall decided to transfer to Arizona State but Pat Chambers was able to pick up a graduate student “free agent” of his own when Allen Roberts chose to transfer to College Station from Miami, Ohio. He is a physical guard who led the Redhawks in scoring a year ago and will help replace Marshall on the wing.
Penn State also gets Pitt transfer John Johnson eligible after the first semester so the Nittany Lions should have quality depth in the backcourt. Freshmen Geno Thorpe and Graham Woodward will also compete for minutes but figure to be seldom used as they will get a year to learn the offense before needing to step into larger roles a year from now.
The guards will carry PSU this year but the frontcourt play will determine whether the team finishes near the bottom of the Big Ten standings or creep towards the middle of the pack. Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor each saw time in the starting lineup last year but at 6-6 and 6-7 respectively, form a very undersized front line. Travis is a bulldog on the glass while Taylor has inside/outside ability scoring the basketball but again, the lack of height will be a major concern.
There isn’t much to get excited about behind Travis and Taylor either. Donovan Jack and Alan Wisniewski played sparingly a year ago and will battle for playing time with freshmen Julian Moore and Payton Banks. Once Johnson becomes eligible, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chambers use an occasional four-guard look since the frontcourt talent is such a concern.
The Nittany Lions will add size next year with SMU transfer Jordan Dickerson. The seven-footer must sit out this season which should give him a needed year of improving his all-around game.
Player to Watch: D.J. Newbill
After suddenly being thrust into the primary ball-handler role last season, it will be interesting to see how Newbill reacts to spending more time playing off the ball due to Frazier’s return. Newbill is not a terrific outside shooter and does most of his damage attacking the hoop so he really thrives when he is able to create off the bounce.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/13 vs. Bucknell
11/19 vs. La Salle
11/29 vs. St. John’s (Barclays Center Classic)
11/30 vs. Georgia Tech/Mississippi (Barclays Center Classic)
12/3 at Pitt
12/7 vs. Marshall
12/11 at Duquesne
OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#108 Virginia Tech
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks