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Staff Predictions: Penn State Hoops’ 2020-21 Season

After this week’s contest against Drexel was postponed, Penn State men’s basketball will finally open its season against Virginia Military Institute at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.

On top of last year’s historically successful campaign being cut off by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been a bumpy offseason for the Nittany Lions. Just last month, head coach Pat Chambers resigned following an internal investigation into alleged misconduct.

There’s been some serious controversy following Chambers’ exit, as several players explained how confused they were by the decision at media day last week. Either way, the Nittany Lions will start their season with interim head coach Jim Ferry at the helm.

Here are out staff’s expectations for the delayed season:

Owen Abbey: 12-12, NIT Appearance

It’s hard to place where the Nittany Lions will end up when the season is all said and done. They arguably have the best shooters in the Big Ten but possess a major weak spot in the frontcourt.

Myreon Jones and Myles Dread have the chance to become stars on this team, and if they can develop as consistent shooters, they will. John Harrar has a difficult task ahead of him of guarding the paint against Big Ten centers. That challenge will either make or break how Penn State does in the conference.

The Nittany Lions also have the unfortunate luck of being in the best conference in college basketball. So while I believe they will go 10-10 in the conference, that probably won’t be enough to put them into the NCAA Tournament. A .500 record is still a success, though, especially with everything that has happened to this team in the last few months.

Otis Lyons: 13-11, NCAA Tournament Run

This Penn State basketball team has a lot of questions to answer in the next few weeks. The Nittany Lions are not the same team as last year on paper. However, despite losing Pat Chambers, I think the Nittany Lions will continue to defy expectations. Yes, there will be classic Penn State hoops moments, and it will probably drop a 15-point lead in agonizing fashion, but one simple fact remains: Most of the rotation has experience as part of a top-10 basketball team. Regardless of a coaching change and the lack of Lamar Stevens, not many programs can say that.

With a shortened non-conference slate, the start of this season will be more important than most as there is less room for error. The Nittany Lions will need to stomp on Drexel, VMI, and VCU. Their tournament hopes would drastically improve with a win over either Seton Hall or Virginia Tech. There is simply no predicting Big Ten as it is once again a gauntlet, but I think that a 10-10 conference record will be enough to sneak in as a “last four in” program.

Matt Rudisill: 15-9, NIT Championship Run

After sweeping their way through the non-conference games, the Nittany Lions will have to battle it out to finish above .500 against the rest of the Big Ten.

I am predicting a very optimistic record for the squad this season, but I believe if the Nittany Lions truly want to put all of the drama behind them and win ball games, this team will do just that. The loss of Lamar Stevens will hurt for sure, and new leaders will have to emerge, but Penn State’s talented group will find a way to get it done this season.

Connor Krause: 12-10, NIT Appearance

Even with the loss of arguably the best player in school history in Lamar Stevens coupled with the surprise resignation of Patrick Chambers, I expect the Nittany Lions to overperform in the 2020-21 season.

Penn State is loaded with guards and will continue to score in bunches from the three-point line with Myreon Jones, Myles Dread, and Seth Lundy in the starting lineup. Conversely, the frontcourt is a huge question mark for Penn State and could pose it with a flurry of defensive issues against the Big Ten’s loaded array of quality big men.

Eleven of Penn State’s 23 total matchups are against ranked opponents, with only five scheduled at the Bryce Jordan Center. Starting on December 13, the Lions will play seven ranked teams in a nine-game stretch. If Jim Ferry can help this team weather the storm and finish at least 4-5 during that span, I think the Nittany Lions will be well on their way to secure an NIT berth for the postseason.

Gabe Angieri: 12-12, NIT Appearance

I’m not exactly confident in this prediction, but I think it’s the most likely scenario. The Nittany Lions are a talented bunch, but losing Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins is going to hurt badly. With so many talented teams across the Big Ten, I don’t think Penn State will be able to replicate last season’s success.

However, the Nittany Lions will remain competitive under interim head coach Jim Ferry. This should be a good shooting team with Myreon Jones and Seth Lundy leading the way with their efficient three-point shooting. Myles Dread, Izaiah Brockington, and Sam Sessoms should also help out on the offensive side of the ball. John Harrar and Jamari Wheeler will bring the intensity and lead on the defensive side of the ball.

My main concern, however, is Penn State’s frontcourt. Besides Harrar, there’s no player who has proved to be a difference-maker at the forward position. That, paired with a tough schedule, should cause enough problems to keep the Nittany Lions out of the NCAA Tournament and limit them to an NIT birth.

Ryan Parsons: 13-11, NCAA Tournament Run

It’s really hard to predict what this year is going to be like for Penn State. There will undoubtedly be many more cancellations, postponements, and low points to come due to the virus. But all in all, I think this team has a shot at being a bubble contender if they can just stay afloat. The Big Ten is really strong this year, so Penn State’s schedule is very tough. The Nittany Lions will have to win the games they’re supposed to win and fight hard for some upsets to have a successful season.

Despite the coaching changes, I think this team is motivated. It wants to continue what it started last year and be successful this season for Pat Chambers and for folks who think Lamar Stevens was the only reason it was a tournament team last year. If Seth Lundy can have a breakout year and fill Stevens’ shoes even a little bit, Penn State can do great things. The team is quick and gritty but is obviously lacking in the forward position. If John Harrar can stay healthy and guys like Abdou Tsimbila or even Patrick Kelly can show promise, Penn State could have a solid big man rotation.

Admittedly, this prediction is a tad optimistic. But with the football team having a historically bad year you have to be hopeful for something, right? The Nittany Lions could absolutely make a run if the pieces fall into place.

Will Pegler: 11-13, NIT Appearance

I expect the Nittany Lions to start out fairly strong with a soft non-conference opening to the schedule, but once they have to deal with several tough Big Ten squads, the losses could start to pile up.

There’s still some talent on this roster, but there’s no getting around the fact that losing Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins is going to hurt. Talented, experienced squads like Michigan and Ohio State are going to give Penn State trouble, as I think Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar could struggle to help lead this team.

Wheeler and Harrar are both strong players, and their experience is certainly valuable for the Nittany Lions, but that won’t be enough to give this team a winning record. With a new coach and a frustrated group of players who miss Pat Chambers, I don’t see this team going any further than the NIT.

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