Staff Predictions: Men’s Basketball Season
The offseason is finally over and Penn State basketball is back in the BJC tonight at 7:00 p.m. against Albany. Our sports staffers break down the Nittany Lions’ outlook for the season and give their record predictions.
Anthony Colucci: 21-10
With the young talent on this year’s team and the promise that head coach Pat Chambers has shown, Penn State basketball is on the rise. Being in the Big Ten and playing a rough out-of-conference schedule won’t help the Nittany Lions’ record, but they will certainly be battle-tested when Selection Sunday rolls around this March but more importantly, for the future. As long as Penn State can distinguish itself from the bottom tier of the Big Ten where it has resided seemingly forever by beating the teams it should beat, competing with its many ranked opponents, and possibly making a run at March Madness, Year Six of the Chambers era will be a success.
James Turchick: 18-13
Penn State will be a little better than usual this year with plenty of developing talent on the bench to sub in and give veterans of the program like Shep Garner and Julian Moore time to catch their breath. Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, and Nazeer Bostick from Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic HS have chemistry already. Paired with Garner’s experience and time at Roman Catholic, it could give way to an entertaining team as Coach Chambers pushes the tempo this year. Entertaining but not necessarily effective– the three freshman teammates from Philly have skills but need to learn the ropes of the NCAA before a successful playoff berth is in the Lions future. Redshirted Mike Watkins, also from Philadelphia, has the height and now the size after putting on weight last year to hang in the Big Ten after he adjusts to being on the court. Don’t expect March Madness, don’t expect empty stands– the Lions will be better than they are worse this season with the process firmly in motion.
Steve Connelly: 16-15
Penn State has the potential to be great in the future, but with a tougher schedule than in previous years, would do well to post an above .500 record. The team is smaller than in the past and doesn’t have as much depth on the low post, which is going to be a challenge in the physical Big Ten. The change to an up-tempo offense is going to help them out big time because it fits the strengths of its roster. It’s going to be a much more exciting team to watch than in previous years, but it’s going to take some time to let this team grow before it gets to the tournament.
Ethan Kasales: 17-14
I think the Nittany Lions take a step forward on the court this season from their 16-16 campaign, though it won’t be immediately visible from the win-loss column. Penn State’s young roster will find its identity midway through the season after enduring a tough non-conference slate that features a showdown with No. 1 Duke on Nov. 19 in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament. It might take a little while for Pat Chambers to nail down his starting five, given the plethora of talent he now has at his fingertips. Expect a breakout season from Mike Watkins, who will provide some much-needed grit in the paint as Penn State goes up against a physical Big Ten schedule.
David Abruzzese: 21-10
I’m a cheerful optimist when it comes to Penn State men’s basketball. Think of me as the dog sitting in a burning room thinking “oh yes, this is just fine,” except this year, that room might not actually be smoldering. Pat Chambers has created a palpable buzz around his program, and the trio of Roman Catholic standouts are a big reason why. Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick, and Lamar Stevens are the real deal, and they add a young nucleus with the kind of talent fans simply have not seen in quite a while. Now, these kids are brimming with skill, but I don’t believe it’ll immediately translate to success. There will be growing pains, and that’s a natural part of the maturation process at the Division I level.
Aside from the team’s standout freshmen, veterans like Shep Garner and Payton Banks will be counted on to lead the Lions past a daunting early season schedule and into the rigors of Big Ten play. While the early slate — which includes meetings with Duke, Cincinnati/Rhode Island, George Washington, Pitt, St. John’s, and Georgia Tech — will pose quite the challenge, it should be used as a learning tool. What better way to prepare your players — especially the younger group — for a difficult conference slate than by pitting them against the best of the best.
All in all, it’s important to remain cautious with this group. Things will certainly be different, there’s no denying that, but the Lions don’t have, say, Kentucky’s recruiting class. The talent is evident, and it’ll show, but it won’t come immediately. Stay patient and support this group, and who knows — people made similar comments about the football team this offseason.
A new era of Penn State men’s basketball is upon us.
Joe Pickard: 17-14
I have been a known disbeliever in Penn State men’s basketball and especially Pat Chambers the past few years. That is changing this year; I’m finally coming around. The Nittany Lions are clearly on the come up after last year’s recruiting class — easily the best Penn State has ever seen for basketball. Now obvious building this team will take awhile because they are all still young, but I finally trust the process behind Chambers. Playing in the Big Ten will be a tough challenge for a young team, but the Lions will progress and slowly improve. I think Penn State will be able to pull of an NIT bid this year, but not the big dance yet. The time is coming for Pat Chambers’ crew, so I’m hopping on the bandwagon now to hopefully prove my #FirePatChambers takes wrong finally.