Now Tim Frazier, like Talor Battle is gone. The next version may have just arrived in University Park (more on him later) but for now at least the cupboard isn't totally bare as the Nittany Lions bring back an all-league player (I assume, I didn't look this up) in D.J. Newbill, the second leading returning scorer in the conference at 17.8 points per game. Newbill doesn't have the all-around game Frazier had, but he was a more efficient scorer (50.2 vs. 46.3 eFG%) despite a higher usage rate, and he out-rebounded Frazier 4.9 vs. 4.4 per game while coming in second on the team in assists. He really is an excellent scorer, hitting double figures in 31 of 34 games last year, and also very consistent, as he never scored more than 25 in a game. That'll probably be different this year.
After Newbill you have five guys who are pretty much known commodities, seeing as they're all juniors or seniors. Ross Travis is the tough bang around rebounder, Brandon Taylor is the stretch four, Donovan Jack is the athlete, John Johnson is the shooter, and Jordan Dickerson is the seven footer. The good news is these guys are all experienced, all have a skill, and mostly all have size (only Johnson at 6-1 is smaller than 6-6). The not as good news is this is basically the same team from last year that went 6-12 in conference, except without their best player.
There's certainly upside here. With this many older players it increases the likelihood that one or more of them make more than a marginal improvement over last season and it's possible somebody becomes a solid second banana. Travis could develop a more complete offensive game and/or completely dominate the boards. Taylor or Jack could become an elite scorer. Johnson could destroy from the 3-point line or Dickerson could become a paint destroyer. That's why I'd say of all the lower division teams (as I'm predicting) I think Penn State has the most potential to jump up and surprise. Of course it's equally likely these guys are who we think they are, and they finish 11th. It will be especially difficult for anyone to make a big jump without a real playmaker, and that's why Shep Garner is so important.
Garner, a freshman guard from Philly, ranks as the 34th point guard in the country per ESPN, just three spots behind our own Nate Mason. The interesting thing to me is how similar his profile sounds to Tim Frazier's when he was a freshman: great instincts, lightning quick, ability to play either guard spot equally well, attacks the rim, needs to add strength. great ball handler and passer, under control, high basketball IQ - it's all here. Now it's a pretty bold statement to say this kid will come in and be the next Tim Frazier so I know it sounds crazy and probably won't happen, but if it does, remember you heard it here first. Plus he's from Philly and was basically a Penn State commit the minute he was born, so if does end up good we'll be tortured by that story over and over again and the universe likes to annoy me so.......
Anyway, PSU is a hard team for me to figure out. They could finish anywhere from 5th to 14th and it wouldn't shock me. Plus things are looking up with two ESPN Top 100 recruits already on board for 2015. Two more than the Gophers, FYI.
#12 NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS
#13 PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
#14 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS