Season Expectations

This is a pretty big year for Penn State basketball.  For the first time in a long time, we’ve accumulated a quality core of young, balanced talent.  I’ve never witnessed a point guard in a Penn State uniform as dynamic as Talor Battle. He’s obviously the captain of this ship and will have the biggest impact on our success this season and beyond. He single-handedly won us a few games and he proved he is the definition of clutch. He’s a gamer that just wants to win and will do everything in his power to do so.  He’s only a sophomore, yet he’s been elected captain by his teammates. It’ll be interesting to see him go head-to-head with Kalin Lucas, Trevon Hughes, and E’Twaun Moore as to who’s the best PG in the conference.

Jamelle Cornley is finally healthy for the first time in a long time.  His whole season last year was a struggle.  It all started in October during the intrasquad scrimmage, where he banged up his knee.  He then came back prematurely for the OSC disaster and was fighting the knee the rest of the season.  Add in a shoulder injury, a tooth through his lip, and a black eye, and he just never could get on track last season.  Well, he’s ready to go for this season.  It’s his senior year.  He’s always left everything on the court and never backed down from anyone his first three years here, but it’s all or nothing now.  I can’t wait to see him tearing it up on the low block again.

Another key to Penn State’s success is the development of the other members of the Sophomore class.  How much did Jeff Brooks, David Jackson, and Andrew Jones improve?  David Jackson had a great season last year and hinted he could be a guy that could consistently give us 10 PPG.  He was our most reliable free throw shooter and made some huge plays in some close wins, especially the and-1 against IU.  Andrew Jones has shown the most potential among our Posts. He’s still a little soft defensively and picks up those careless fouls, but with the addition of Lewis Preston to our coaching staff, he might’ve made significant strides in his game.  Brooks finally broke out of his freshmen shell in the last 2 games of the season last year. He was instrumental to our upset of Indiana and built on that game with a good performance against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament.  He could be a truly special player.  At a lenky 6’8″, he’s got great ball skills. He showed a great pullup mid-range jumper.  He also has the highest defensive potential on our team.  He added 15 lbs of muscle, which should help him tremendously in the paint.  I have the highest expectations for Jeff, since he should be a matchup nightmare for any team we play.

Morrissey and Pringle return for their senior seasons. We know what we get with Morrissey.  A reliable sharpshooter that hustles and can make some key plays defensively, especially his uncanny ability to draw offensive fouls. However, he’s not a great ballhandler and he’s limited against faster guards defensively.  I’m really excited to see a more disciplined Pringle.  There has been a trend among JuCo transfers, that they make tremendous strides between their junior and senior years.  Pringle was productive last year, but tended to have mental lapses and really made some dumb plays at times.  He’s Dee Brown fast, but it was rare for him to be under control.  If he can play smart and within the system, I believe he’ll be a tremendous asset to the team.

So where do the newcomers fit in?  I haven’t a clue.  Babb is partly a mystery.  There’s no denying his shooting ability.  He can light it up from anywhere.  The problem with Babb, though, is his VERY steep learning curve.  It’s always tough to make the transition from high school to Big Ten basketball, but Babb is essentially coming from JV competition to the Big Ten.  It’s been reported in early practices that he’s really struggling defensively and is having trouble adjusting to the physicality of play in practice.  And let’s be honest, PSU isn’t even close to being the most physical team in the Big Ten.  He’s got the athleticism and build to contribute, though, so we’ll see.  Cammeron Woodyard is also a mystery.  He was a pretty unknown recruit when he committed and was labelled as a mid-major talent by basically every recruitnik.  He’s got a similar build as Babb and apparently has a strong mid-range game.  I’m guessing that Billy Oliver is going to redshirt, but that’s just a gut feeling.  I have pretty low expectations for Andrew Ott from what I’ve gathered from people who have seen him play.  More will come on all four of these guys after the exhibition on Sunday.

So how will the team do this year?  It’s tough to say.  We did win our last 5 Big Ten home games last season, but we haven’t been close to the top teams in the league ever since Ed’s been here. Have we ever stayed within 20 points of a Bo Ryan club the last 5 years? There has been all sorts of turnover in the Big Ten, too, so it’s tough to guage how good the rest of the league is going to be.  However, it’s Ed’s 6th year and it’s time for him to deliver some serious progress.  It’s essential for us to finish ahead of Iowa, UM, Illinois, NW, and Indiana, in my opinion.  Those teams are in the rebuilding process and are only going to get better in the future.  If we can’t finish ahead of them this year, we’re going to be in the basement for a while, and there’ll be a new coach in State College.  I’m expecting at least an NIT berth, with some flirtation with the NCAA tourney come March.  But in reality, we won’t know any realistic outlooks until we play against Villanova (hopefully) and @ Georgia Tech in the non-con portion of the schedule.

The biggest question going into the season:  Will we ever see a form of competent defense in the Ed DeChellis era?

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