ESPN’s Joe Lunardi Puts Penn State Hoops In Way-Too-Early 2020 NCAA Tournament Field
The 2019 NCAA Basketball tournament just ended last night, but it’s never too early to start preparing for next year’s March Madness bracket.
ESPN “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi released his first projection of next year’s 64-team bracket on Monday night, and he had Penn State as a 10-seed in the South region. Pat Chambers’ program would take on Texas Tech — yes, the same Texas Tech that just lost to Virginia in the national championship game — in the first round of Lunardi’s bracket.
This might come as a surprise to some fans, mostly because the Nittany Lions’ 2018-19 season will definitely be remembered as a letdown. Pat Chambers’ squad followed up its 2018 NIT championship with a 14-18 overall record and failed to win a Big Ten tournament game. Other than upset wins over Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Michigan, there weren’t many bright spots in a season that included an 0-10 start to conference play.
Lunardi’s predictions came out before small forward Lamar Stevens announced his plans to enter the NBA draft this afternoon. Stevens was the heartbeat of Penn State on both sides of the floor — he finished second in the Big Ten with 19.9 points per game — but he still can return to Happy Valley if he so chooses.
If Stevens does leave, however, he and Josh Reaves would leave a big hole in Penn State’s starting lineup. Reaves was named the 2019 Big Ten defensive player of the year after finishing twelfth in the nation with 77 steals.
Regardless of Stevens’ status, there is still plenty of talent returning to Happy Valley next year. Guards Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton both had solid freshman campaigns and have the potential to build on that and establish themselves as key pieces. Scrappy guard Jamari Wheeler also brings plenty of energy on the defensive side of the ball and will be relied on as a leader heading into his junior season.
Up front, big men John Harrar and Mike Watkins will also both return to the squad. Watkins played sparingly to open up the season after a suspension, which opened the door for Harrar to gain lots of valuable experience in his place. Both players will have plenty of experience to work with next season and could become a dynamic duo in the paint.
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