Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
It cannot be a positive sign for your program when your head coach, an alma mater of your university, leaves a major conference team to take a job in the Patriot League. That is one of the challenges the Penn State Nittany Lions, who comes in at #107 in our “111 in 111,” faces this season as well as losing the heart and soul of their team in Talor Battle.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Last Season: T-4th, 9-9 in Big Ten, 19-15 overall
Predicted Big Ten Finish: 12th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Pat Ackerman (Fr)/Peter Alexis (Fr)
PF: Billy Oliver (So)/Jonathan Graham (Fr)/Sasa Borovnjak (So)
G/F: Jermaine Marshall (So)/Ross Travis (Fr)
SG: Cammeron Woodyard (Sr)/Matt Glover (So)/Tre Bowman (So)
PG: Tim Frazier (Jr)/Trey Lewis (Fr)
Gone: G-Talor Battle, F/C-Andruw Jones III, G/F-David Jackson, PF-Jeff Brooks, PG-Taran Buie (transfer-Hofstra)
In one of the more surprising coaching moves in college basketball, Ed DeChellis left his alma mater to take the head coaching position at Navy. This move came just months after DeChellis led the Nittany Lions to the first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade and puts into question how successful one can be coaching at Penn State, which is undoubtedly a football school. Boston University head coach Patrick Chambers replaces DeChellis and takes over a roster that loses a lot of talent.
The biggest challenge for Chambers will be replacing the school’s all-time leading scorer, Talor Battle who carried the Nittany Lions (or as Paul M. Banks referred to them “Penn State Talor Battles”) to the tourney last season. Making matters even more complicated, Penn State also loses their starting frontcourt of Jeff Brooks, Andruw Jones, and David Jackson.
The only starter back at State College is junior point guard Tim Frazier who is also the team’s top returning scorer despite averaging just 6.3 points per game. Frazier was more of a true facilitator last season, dishing out more than five assists per game but will have to take on more of the scoring load this season. Senior Cammeron Woodyard and redshirt sophomore Jermaine Marshall saw limited minutes off the bench last season but will likely take on starting roles on the wing.
The backcourt depth took a hit when Battle’s half-brother, Taran Buie was involved in an on-campus fight and ultimately decided to transfer out of the program. Sophomore shooting guard Tre Bowman was part of that same altercation and will be held out of game action until January as a disciplinary measure. That leaves freshman point guard Trey Lewis and JUCO transfer Matt Glover as the only reserve guards who are under scholarship.
Question marks fill the frontcourt as reserve Billy Oliver is the only returning player from a year ago. 6-8 Jonathan Graham redshirted last season as a freshman and should be asked to contribute immediately. 6-11 freshmen Pat Ackerman and Peter Alexis will try to provide an inside presence as Oliver and Graham are both versatile forwards who can step out and knock down jumpers. Freshman Ross Travis will add more athleticism to the frontcourt while Sasa Borovnjak returns after missing last season with a torn ACL.
Missing more than 78% of their scoring (which is especially alarming since they finished 298th in the country in scoring) and 75% of their rebounding from a year ago, Penn State faces a massive re-building project. In this year of transition, expect the Nittany Lions to return to a position that they have become familiar with since joining the Big Ten; the doormat of the conference.
Player to Watch: Tim Frazier
Often deferring to Battle last season, Frazier learned how to be a distributing point guard but must become more aggressive in scoring the basketball this year if the Nittany Lions are going to have any hope of being a respectable team. It will be interesting to see if Chambers switches styles and allows his team to play a little more up-tempo rather than the grind-it-out-style Penn State has played the past few seasons. Frazier might excel with more transition opportunities and it would give him a chance to use his quickness and athleticism in the open court.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/19 vs. Kentucky (Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament)
11/20 vs. Old Dominion/South Florida (Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament)
11/26 at St. Joseph’s
11/30 at Boston College
12/4 vs. Mississippi
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
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 fomer contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.