Analyzing Post-ESPN Events Invitational Reactions For Penn State Hoops

After a great start to the season, Penn State men’s basketball lost three straight games at the ESPN Events Invitational over fall break. The Nittany Lions fell in order to then-No. 12 Texas A&M, Butler, and VCU.

After seven games, Penn State fans have finally gotten a good look at their new look team. There’s been plenty of ups and downs throughout the season, so our men’s basketball writers took a look at some of the things fans are saying about the Nittany Lions.

Leo O’Boyle Shouldn’t See The Court

Joe Lister: Leo O’Boyle has been absolutely brutal thus far. In 84 minutes on the court, O’Boyle has put up 17 shots, 14 of which have come from beyond the arc. He’s made four field goals and just two three-pointers. It’s been ugly. He’s OK on defense, but he’s just been such a bad look on offense that it’s hard to get excited when he comes on the court.

CJ Gill: Take him off the floor. The Lafayette transfer was brought to Happy Valley by Rhoades’ staff to shoot the three ball and shoot it very well. He has done neither. O’Boyle has made two three-pointers on 14 attempts in seven games this year. Offensively, he was recruited to shoot better than 14% from behind the arc. Defensively, he’s a liability: slow on his feet when the rest of the team elects to play fast. He has been called upon at times to play the center position, but being undersized, it hasn’t gone well. In the Texas A&M game, offensive rebounds became a major issue, especially when O’Boyle was attempting to hold down the paint. I just haven’t seen anything through the first few weeks of the season that he will provide anything extra offensively that will make up for his poor defensive play.

Matt Brown: Not seeing the court is a reach for now, but it’s not looking great for the graduate student. O’Boyle is averaging just two points a game despite playing about 12 minutes a game. It’s the lowest amount on the team in terms of players who’ve appeared in six games or more this season. To O’Boyle’s credit, Rhoades does have him playing center, a spot he’s been unfamiliar with, so his defensive numbers aren’t expected to be great.

The offensive numbers are no better. He’s 2-14 from three, where last season he was a 40% three-point scorer. While the Nittany Lions need someone to run as the backup center, I don’t think O’Boyle should be the man to do it unless his play improves quickly.

Penn State Can Hang With The Big Boys, It Just Can’t Close Games Out

Joe Lister: Penn State is a good team that just cannot get to the finish line. It hurt the Nittany Lions in Kissimmee, and it’s going to hurt them at the end of the season. Despite taking a very good Texas A&M team to almost the wire, the Nittany Lions lost to the Aggies and then lost to increasingly worse teams in Butler and VCU. It wasn’t pretty.

The other thing to consider with these losses is how it can drain the team. If you play in enough close games, and lose enough close games, you’re tank’s probably going to be empty when the postseason comes around. Penn State’s losses now could have an impact on how it plays in February.

CJ Gill: I’m still undecided about this. In Orlando, Penn State proved it could do just both, taking a very good Texas A&M team down to the final minutes and a lack of finishing out the game in just about all three contests. Where I am undecided on this is I just haven’t seen enough of a sample size to see if either is true. I think in the long run, Penn State has the talent to hang with just about anyone in the country but also the inexperience to not get over the hump in the final minutes of close games.

Matt Brown: Despite losing all three games this past week at the ESPN Events Invitational, the Nittany Lions showed that they keep up with the top dogs of college basketball. While they lost by 12 points to Texas A&M, Penn State had the Aggies within three points with just over six minutes to go in that game. While losing three in a row sucks, especially against teams you probably should’ve beaten, they showed signs that they can compete — especially in the Big Ten.

Ace Baldwin Jr. Is The Team’s Only Consistent Attacking Option

Joe Lister: Against VCU, it felt this way. Once Kanye Clary left the game — later to reappear with a brace/cast on his arm — Ace Baldwin Jr. had to carry the team. Baldwin may be a very talented player, but he’s not good enough that Penn State can just fall on him every game. Either Baldwin needs to improve or Mike Rhoades needs to get his group some more offensive options.

CJ Gill: Despite the VCU game where he didn’t play the majority of due to a hand injury, Clary has been the most consistent scorer for Penn State. Baldwin has played better offensively in the last few games, one of which was due to the increased load from Clary’s absence. Aside from those two and maybe Qudus Wahab, I haven’t seen much consistent scoring from other players. Zach Hicks, Puff Johnson, and Nick Kern Jr. have all shown flashes that they can score. At least one of those three will need to step up before Big Ten play if the Nittany Lions want to end the year with a respectable record.

Matt Brown: While Baldwin’s recent performances have been great, especially his 27-point performance versus his old squad VCU, Kanye Clary has been the guy this year for Penn State. The team has two ball-dominant point guards in Clary and Baldwin, and while some see that as a problem, it’s a great problem to have. Clary continues to be the leading scorer for Penn State, and if it wasn’t for a stinger during the VCU game, he could’ve been the leading scorer in all seven contests this season. While Baldwin has been a consistent option, Clary is just as, if not more, consistent than him.

Coming Back Home Will Be A Good Reset For The Nittany Lions

Joe Lister: In their defense, the Nittany Lions had a brutal schedule. They played three games in four days, which is a lot of work. With any luck, the week off will do Penn State some good. It also helps that Bucknell is next on the schedule, which should make for a solid, but winnable, contest.

Sometimes a team just needs a break. That could be the answer here.

CJ Gill: I don’t think that’s how Mike Rhoades or anyone within the program saw the ESPN Events Invitational unfolding. Penn State would have been thrilled to fly home from Orlando with at least one or two victories. Going winless changes the entire outlook of the first few weeks of the Rhoades era. Against inferior opponents at the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lions looked like a vastly different team, especially on the defensive end. Coming home is the best thing this team could experience right now. They have a long break before taking on Bucknell this Saturday. The time off and the time spent at home can help get this roster back on track and back to its winning ways.

Matt Brown: Penn State is back at its home court and has a few days off before its next game. The game against Bucknell should be a good rebound game for the Nittany Lions before they move into the first Big Ten matchups of the year.

Penn State Is Bad Again

Joe Lister: This take goes out to one specific guy in our comment section who made me laugh with this tweet.

I think this Penn State team is exactly as advertised. Yes, the loss to VCU was tough, but it’s still one rough loss. If you’re looking for a basketball team that won’t disappoint you, go root for the 2012 Miami Heat.

I still think this is a middle-of-the-table Big Ten team that either has a good NIT run or sneaks into the NCAA Tournament similar to last year. Hold the line, folks.

CJ Gill: It’s just not the case. After three losses in four days against quality, distinguished basketball programs on the road — Penn State is just fine. By no stretch is Penn State bad again, or has returned to the quality of play under Pat Chambers. This is a team that has never played with one another, under a new coach, who is still trying to find its identity. It’s going to take some time. Maybe it’ll take an entire year for this program to become consistent. There weren’t many expectations heading into the season for this team, and folks should hold off on the overreactions after three losses in an in-season tournament in November.

Matt Brown: No, it’s not. Teams lose games, and it happens to everyone, especially in college basketball. The key is to end this losing streak and pick up where it left off before their recent tournament. It still has great players and coaches who can adjust and bounce back from adversity.

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About the Author


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