Team: Penn State Nittany Lions
Location: University Park, Pa.
Conference: Big Ten
Head coach: Micah Shrewsberry (first season)
2020-2021 record: 11-14 overall, 7-12 B1G
Top returning players: 6-foot-9, F, John Harrar (8.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.3 apg); 6-foot-6, F, Seth Lundy (10.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.8 apg); 6-foot-4, G, Myles Dread (7.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.1 apg)
Top newcomers: 6-foot-0, G, Boogie Cornwall (14.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg 3.8 apg, 40.8 3P%) transfer from Gardner-Webb; 6-foot-4, G, Jalen Pickett (12.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg) transfer from Siena; 6-foot-9, F, Greg Lee (13.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.4 apg) transfer from Western Michigan
2020-2021 review: This may sound weird, given their record and the fact that they lost their interim head coach to UMBC, but Penn State was a good team last season. They certainly gave the Badgers fits, splitting the regular season series and then losing by one point in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Nittany Lions had the most difficult schedule in the nation last season and their record suffered for it. They had the No. 34 ranked offense and the No. 52 ranked defense by KenPom’s efficiency rankings and lost a number of close games throughout the year.
PSU will have to replace the production of guards Izaiah Brockington (12.6 ppg), Jamari Wheeler (6.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg) and Myreon Jones (15.3 ppg) as well as some reserve frontcourt minutes too.
2021-2022 preview: This is very much a rebuilding year for Penn State. With a new head coach and a 2021 recruiting class that contained, uh, zero players the Nittany Lions have a steep climb ahead of them. Micah Shrewsberry has coached under Brad Stevens and Matt Painter and has experience both in the college ranks as well as the NBA, so he should be appealing to recruits looking to expand their game.
In fact, the 2022 recruiting class is already looking very good for PSU. They have five commits, including a 4-star center, that ranks them No. 19 in the country by the 247 Composite. Two of their recruits are from the Philadelphia area (including one from my alma mater, go Fords!) which will need to be a focus of Shresberry’s as there is plenty of talent there that might want to stay close to home.
Penn State will be looking to returning big man John Harrar (a walking double-double) and wing Seth Lundy (a guy who can go off for 20+ on any night) to set the tone for a new group of transfers that includes guard Jalen Pickett, a former MAAC Player of the Year, from Siena.
I don’t see Penn State winning too many games this year, but I’d wager they’ll put a scare into most teams in the Big Ten throughout the season.
Game vs. Wisconsin: Saturday, Feb. 5, Madison, Wis., Kohl Center, BTN, 5 p.m. CT