Tony Carr and company will face Campbell University to kick off the basketball season at the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday. Head Coach Pat Chambers is entering his seventh season with the team with hopes to lead the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Our staff took a stab at trying to predict how this season will play out for the blue and white.
Mitch Stewart: 20-11
This season is all about taking the next step in the maturation of what was a very young team last year. With Nazeer Bostick returning from last year’s wrist injury, Satchel Pierce becoming eligible following his transfer from Virginia Tech prior to last season, and freshmen Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar earning glowing remarks from Coach Chambers, I see an improved season for the Nittany Lions in a wide-open Big Ten. Tony Carr is the most complete guard in the conference, and should be a lock for first-team All-Big Ten honors. If Mike Watkins or Lamar Stevens can turn into a more consistent force and Shep Garner can hit enough shots from deep to make up for the loss of Payton Banks, this team might slide itself off of the bubble and into the Big Dance for the first time since 2011.
Derek Bannister: 22-9
I am probably overly optimistic, just like I am every year. I will say, however, that it felt like the Nittany Lions were just a few plays away from winning a handful of Big Ten games last year that more experience would’ve helped with. And they now have exactly that. Tony Carr has shown the ability to put the team on his back down the stretch — even as a freshman. The talent of Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins will continue to shine through, and Shep Garner and Josh Reaves are likely poised for great seasons as veteran leaders of the squad.
I think there will be a lot of excitement around this team for the first time in a while. After seven teams made the tournament last season from the Big Ten, I am hopeful that Pat Chambers’ squad can make the Big Dance as the sixth or seventh team from the conference.
Mary Frances Pillion: 18-13
Penn State will for sure play some basketball. They’ll win some games, too! They won’t win all of the games, but they will definitely have fun, because that’s what sports are all about, right? People will also come watch! It won’t be #107kStrong (110k?), but a reasonable crowd for, say, a competitive high school, will be in attendance for most games.
In all seriousness, it seems that each year I’ve been here it’s predicted that Penn State basketball is “on the rise!” and people expect them to have a great season. I like to think of myself as an optimist, so I allowed for a winning season, but nothing extraordinary. They’re returning all five starters which bodes well as far as chemistry is concerned, but defensively we need to see major improvements if we want to become a real contender. I think the Big Dance may still be a year or two out, but if the right improvements are made this season, Penn State could be well on it way to making it back in soon.
Dylan Coughlin: 20-11
The biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s is that extra year of experience. Even though they still have a relatively young team, Pat Chambers won’t be relying on three freshman to carry the Nittany Lions this season. That aspect will help avoid those early season losses like they had last year against Albany and George Mason. Penn State went 2-5 in games decided by five or less points, and that experience should help swing by a couple games in the Nittany Lions favor. A pretty easy non-conference schedule should help boost the win total.
I’m still skeptical about the front court depth behind Mike Watkins (if Watkins can get back on the floor). Penn State needs to rebound the ball better to compete in the Big Ten. Tony Carr is a stud, and he should be in contention for the All-Big team — he’ll have a 30+ point game this season and I also think he flirts with a triple-double a few times this year. At the end of the day, this is a significantly improved team. I believe they Nittany Lions finally sneak in to the tournament with one of final spots after a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament.
Elissa Hill: 16-15
Let me say that a lot’s possible for this team. With sophomore guard Tony Carr, who’s been touted as a potential breakout star among all players in Big Ten backcourts, leading the way, the Nittany Lions return several key pieces that could make their starting five competitive with any team in the country. The issue is the depth sitting behind it. While the front court adds a seven-footer in Virginia Tech transfer Satchel Pierce, now eligible to play after sitting out last season, the backcourt lost a pair of impact players with the transfers of Terrence Samuel and Payton Banks to South Florida. Head coach Pat Chambers has nothing but praise though for Nazeer Bostick, a sophomore guard who’s ready to shine after struggling through his freshman year with injuries.
At the end of the day, it might just be too much to ask for a team going seven maybe eight players deep on the roster game after game in the physical Big Ten to be able to have consistent success. Much like the past couple of years, this will be a middle of the road team outside of the postseason picture come March.
Nathaniel Pinskey: 28-3
I don’t know what will be more surprising, the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead or Penn State actually finishing with this record? From what I have seen in the two exhibition games so far, Penn State is actually playing as a basketball team instead of four guys pulling up from three and Mike Watkins standing under the basket waiting for the rebound. Tony Carr will come into the season as one of the best players in the Big Ten, and Lamar Stevens will surprise many people around college basketball. Penn State has depth on the bench in Nazeer Bostick, Jamari Wheeler, and Satchel Pierce that will all throw different looks at opposing teams, and allow Carr to play off the ball at points as well.
Penn State should finish top three in the Big Ten, and has a chance of winning the Big Ten tournament this year. Many people have Penn State as a team on the bubble, but I think they can end up anywhere in the three to six spot in the brackets…but then again, this is Penn State basketball so a NIT run is an accomplishment of a season as well.
David Abruzzese: 21-10
I’ve been an optimist about Penn State basketball for pretty much the entire time I’ve been a student at Penn State — but this year feels different. The standout trio of freshmen (Mike Watkins, Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens) have accrued a needed season of work. Tony Carr is straight up jacked now, and he looks better than ever. Mike Watkins could be one of the best big men in the Big Ten, and the team has some striking depth. It’s an exciting time for the program, but it’s also time to start compiling some wins. I’m confident that comes this season, and I’m confident it’ll be done with a great deal of style.
Anthony Fiset: 22-9
As a former season ticket holder, I know a lot about Penn State basketball. First, dollar dog night at the BJC will be a success this year. Second, Penn State will lose at least one game to some school I have never heard of that has a super obscure mascot (Campbell’s known as the Fighting Camels).
Last and most hot take: The Nittany Lions make it into the tournament as a play-in 12 seed before making a quick exit in the round of 32.
Hawkin Slusarski: 31-0