Monday, October 31, 2011

Big Ten Preview: #12 Penn State

Well that was a fun little run last year, wasn't it?  To see a guy like Talor Battle, a little do-it all guy whose talent so far exceeded everyone else on the team that he wasn't asked to do everything, take his team on a happy fun late season run, including an appearance in the Big Ten Tournament Championship, and grab their first NCAA bid since the annoying Crispins were running around State College.  Of course, the dream died when Juan Fernandez hit that off-balance shot in the NCAA First Second Round, and it's been dying every since.

First off, and biggest, everybody graduated.  Not just the great Battle, but three other starters as well (David Jackson, Andrew Jones, and Jeff Brooks), and the heir apparent to Battle, Taran Buie, transferred to Hofstra after being suspended mid-season.  All that means Penn State is losing 87% of its scoring, 74% of its rebounding, and 53% of its assists.  On top of that, despite leading the team to its first NCAA Bid in a thousand years, Coach Ed DeChellis bounced to Navy (Navy!) and with him talented Dayton transfer Juwan Staten changed his mind about joining the squad and will suit up for West Virginia instead.  So the Nittany Lions roll into this season with a new coach, a whole new team, and not a lot of reasons for optimism.

The one bright spot, and the reason the still get 47% of their assists back from last year, is point guard Tim Frazier.  He's an excellent point guard who excels at getting into the lane, setting teammates up (4th in the B10 in assists last year), and getting to the line.  He's not much of a scorer (6.3 ppg last year) and even less of a shooter (just 56 3pt attempts in two years), and although his skills make him valuable on a team like this, where he is clearly the best player, he's not a great fit.  The positive is that he should be able to help make his teammates better by finding them open looks, the question is if there's anybody here who is capable of even making those.

Really, there's nothing to get excited about here.  The only other players back who averaged more than 10 minutes per game last season are forwards Billy Oliver and Cammeron Woodyard, which at least means Penn State will have some size with some experience, but the two combined to shoot just 28% from the field last season which means somebody is going to have to make an enormous talent leap to make the Nittany Lions even competitive, whether it's one of those two, Jermaine Marshall (the only other returnee who averaged even five minutes per game), or one of a plethora of newcomers who I don't feel like writing about because I'd just be guessing.

It's going to be a rough year for Penn State, and the chance of a winless conference season is a very real possibility, but at least Tim Frazier is fun to watch.  Hopefully he can elevate his game this year and make Penn State at least watchable if it's the only game on TV.

DWG's OVER/UNDER on conference wins:  1.5

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