Nickname: Nittany Lions
Conference: Big Ten
Location: State College, Pennsylvania
Head coach: Pat Chambers, 9th season
2018-19 record: 14-18 (7-13 in Big Ten)
Last time in NCAA Tournament: 2011, lost in first round to Temple
Top three returning scorers:
- Lamar Stevens, senior, 19.9 ppg
- Myles Dread, sophomore, 8.3 ppg
- Mike Watkins, redshirt senior, 7.8 ppg
Key losses: Rasir Bolton, sophomore, 11.6 ppg, transferred to Iowa State
Exciting newcomer: Curtis Jones Jr., a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, is a 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 8.1 points per game last season for the Cowboys. The senior has experience playing in the Big Ten, having played at Indiana for a year and half before transferring to Oklahoma State. After losing guards Josh Reaves and Rasir Bolton to graduation and transfer respectively, Jones will add a much-needed veteran presence to Penn State’s backcourt.
Date of game: Saturday, January 11th, Time TBD, BTN
Location: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, PA
Preview: Head coach Pat Chambers enters his ninth season in Happy Valley squarely on the hot seat. The Nittany Lions have failed to make the NCAA tournament in his eight years at the helm and this season will likely be his last if they can’t breakthrough to the Big Dance. Fortunately, Chambers returns one of the Big Ten’s best players in forward Lamar Stevens. The senior finished second in the conference in scoring last season (19.9 ppg) and will once again be the go-to scorer and playmaker for the Nittany Lions.
Joining Stevens in the front court will be fellow senior Mike Watkins, who averaged 7.8 points per game and was second on the team in rebounding (7.4 rpg) in 2018-19. With Stevens and Watkins up front, the Nittany Lions project to have one of the best front courts in the conference.
The success of this season’s Penn State team will largely depend on their guard play. The Nittany Lions were dealt a huge blow when promising freshman guard Rasir Bolton decided to transfer to Iowa State. But sophomore Myles Dread, who started 28 games as a true freshman, returns to lead the backcourt along with junior Jamari Wheeler. Dread lead the Nittany Lions in three pointers last season and shot a respectable 35.6% from deep, while Wheeler is a breakout candidate after averaging 3.6 points and 2.8 assists per game in 32 games played.
Led by an All-American candidate in Stevens, the Nittany Lions enter the season with NCAA Tournament expectations. I actually think Stevens and Watkins could form the best front court in the Big Ten, but it will be the play of Dread, Wheeler, and Jones Jr. that will ultimately determine if this squad can make the tourney.
Prediction: Badgers win 66-61