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Staff Predictions: Penn State Hoops’ 2023-24 Season

Penn State men’s basketball is back in Happy Valley in just four days.

The Mike Rhoades era will tip off against Delaware State at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 6, in the Bryce Jordan Center, and it’ll be the first look at a fully refreshed Nittany Lion roster.

The group got off to a positive start and registered a 68-58 exhibition victory over Robert Morris last week, and Georgetown forward Qudus Wahab led the way with a 15-point-double-double. Ace Baldwin Jr., Zach Hicks, and Kanye Clary followed closely behind with 13, 11, and 10 points, respectively, en route to the team’s first showcase on the hardwood.

With one 40-minute display under its belt, Penn State is racing toward its non-conference slate. Our staffers made their best guesses as to how the Nittany Lions’ season will go following a historical 2022-23 season.

Nolan Wick: 15-16, No Postseason Appearance

The program has a bright future under Mike Rhoades, but this is going to be a typical rebuild year given the disaster that ensued following his predecessor’s departure. Simply put, the talent isn’t here yet to compete with the big boys of the conference, despite nice additions such as Ace Baldwin Jr. and Nick Kern Jr.

Penn State will fare well in a weak non-conference schedule, but poorly in a competitive Big Ten. Ultimately, though, I think the Nittany Lions will finish below .500 without making any postseason tournaments. Be patient, everyone.

Mitchell Corcoran: 17-14, NIT Tournament Appearance

It’s no secret that there’s been a ton of turnover with this team. With only three returning scholarship players and a new coaching staff, it’s reasonable to expect some regression in comparison to last year’s March Madness team.

In head coach Mike Rhoades’ first season at Rice in 2014, his team went 12-20. In his first year at VCU in 2017, Rhoades’ team went 18-15. I think Penn State falls somewhere in between these two records. The Big Ten is a great basketball conference, with two teams currently ranked in the top four of the AP Top-25 Poll and eight teams making the NCAA Tournament last season.

I expect some growing pains with this team, especially at the beginning of the season, but I also expect a strong finish and some potential upset wins at the end of the season.

CJ Gill: 19-12, NCAA Tournament Bubble Bid

Try to name a team that has more question marks heading into the season than Mike Rhoades’ squad. Rhoades and his staff did a great job bringing in talent from across the country, however, your guess is as good as mine as to how that will translate onto the court.

The Nittany Lions will battle week in and week out in a Big Ten that appears to be as deep as it has in recent years. With everything that’s unknown surrounding this team, I’m still riding high on Penn State. Rhoades’ play style and demeanor have me convinced this team will figure it out around January. It’s going to be tough sledding, but this team has the capabilities to surprise everyone and make another run in March.

Michael Siroty: 14-17, No Postseason Appearance

The Nittany Lions are heading into this season with a revamped look, and it will likely take Mike Rhoades some time to adjust to Big Ten basketball. It’s one of the toughest conferences to play in, and I expect Penn State to lose most of its conference games. The team certainly has some very talented players, but I expect the lack of rebounding to haunt it, bringing my record prediction to under .500.

Matt Brown: 20-11, NCAA Tournament Appearance

Call me crazy, call me insane, but this team is going to be just as good as last year. I have very high confidence in this year’s hoops squad as I think it has the talent to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Don’t get me wrong, the path won’t be easy as the Big Ten continues to be one of the best basketball conferences in the entire NCAA. However, I don’t think that matters.

First-year Penn State head coach Mike Rhoades knows how to win, and he’s done so at every school he’s been a part of. The Nittany Lions are led by former Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Ace Baldwin Jr. and returning guard Kanye Clary, as well as transfers Nick Kern Jr. and Qudus Wahab. It’ll be a battle this season to get back to the Big Dance, however, I think this team has what it takes.

Fernando Martinez: 18-13, NIT Appearance

After making March Madness last year for the first time since 2011, I think the Nittany Lions will take a step back this year. This team drastically changed during the offseason as a lot of players from last year left the program and a lot of transfers have come in to replace them. Also, they had a coaching change as Micah Shrewsberry left for Notre Dame, and Mike Rhoades from VCU has stepped in to replace him.

I think all these changes are just too much for the Nittany Lions to overcome if they want to go dancing in March. I expect them to get off to a fast start at the beginning, but when their Big Ten schedule starts, that’s when I think the struggles will begin. The Big Ten is always brutal, and there are so many good teams in this conference. Due to that, I don’t think Penn State will get enough quality wins in Big Ten play. I expect them to win a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament, but it won’t be enough to make it back to the Big Dance and will have to settle with an appearance in the NIT.

Ericka Apolskis: 23-8, NCAA Tournament Appearance

The Nittany Lions are going all the way. Well, maybe not to the finals but at least to the Sweet Sixteen. I personally have them winning my bracket obviously, no matter where they’re ranked in March. I think this “new era” of Penn State hoops is going to be a good one, and Mike Rhoades and this team are definitely going to turn heads.

Their first real test of the season will be against Texas A&M on November 23. Since my hometown is only 45 minutes away from College Station and half of my graduating class are Aggies, I’m going to need Penn State to have a little rerun of its March Madness opener or I will never live it down.

Sophie Yadzinski: 21-10, NCAA Tournament Appearance

Basketball season is my favorite time of year, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Penn State hoops will most definitely be going dancing again in March 2024. Despite the departure of last year’s head coach Micah Shrewsberry along with star players Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy, the Nittany Lions are still on the up for this season.

Looking at this year’s new team, all I see is talent. Mike Rhoades had a challenge to fill his roster, but he did not disappoint. The roster is deep and defensively strong. Not only do I think this team will bring the heat on defense, it will dominate athletically.

After seeing Rhoades’ style of play at VCU, I imagine the team will play to its strengths and work quickly. With new addition Ace Baldwin Jr. and veteran Nittany Lion Kanye Cleary at the forefront of the lineup, the agility and ball handling of the group will be swift. With the change in style of play from previous years, I believe Penn State will dominate the Big Ten. The change in intensity may challenge other opponents to keep up and just might land Penn State a return spot in the rankings for March Madness. Buckle up folks, we are in for a great season.

Keeley Lamm: 16-15, NIT Appearance

Penn State hoops is in for another transitional season under its fourth head coach in five years. With a roster and coaching staff that’s brand new to Happy Valley from top to bottom, it’s hard to imagine the group won’t experience a few bumps in the road.

There’s plenty of raw talent on the team, so it’ll be exciting to watch the “bold, different, and aggressive” team get to work in the Bryce Jordan Center. While I don’t predict a repeat of last season’s trip to the Big Dance, I’m betting the Nittany Lions will roll into the NIT after a 2022-esque run in the Big Ten Tournament.

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