Optimism and fan interest in the Penn State men’s basketball team is at an all-time high for this time of year. Many people who are sick of the football team (despite their own season predictions of 10-2, go figure) are beginning to look to basketball as a distraction from the football team. Student season ticket sales are at an all-time high, as well. I guess people found the Not Important Tournament championship pretty exciting, after all.
But I’m honestly curious what these new PSU fans are expecting out of the team this year? Our lovable heroes from that NIT run are gone. When you lose players of that magnitude, you should expect some sort of regression in terms of success. This is a young team. In fact, there are no seniors. Younger teams tend to do worse than more experienced teams. And believe me, the Big Ten is experienced.
If you haven’t been reading many preseason publications on the college basketball season ahead, pundits have already pegged the Big Ten as the best basketball conference heading into the season. It was only a matter of time since the arrival of John Beilein and Tubby Smith into the conference, to go along with the conference icons in Weber, Painter, Izzo, and Ryan. The conference is looking as strong as ever, top to bottom. MSU and PU are going to be top 10 teams all season. OSU, UM, Minnesota, and Illinois are all top 25 worthy. Wisconsin just wins every year and Northwestern is actually thinking NCAA tournament. With the conference’s strength and PSU’s youth, the Nittany Lions have been unanimously picked to finish 9th in the Big Ten, ahead of depleted Iowa and the rebuilding Hoosiers.
I must say, I have never been this optimistic about a team that even I would pick to finish 9th in the league. What a difference a year makes. Just last year, you better believe I had many doubts about the direction of the program. But Talor Battle put together a breakout campaign that exceeded even the biggest homers’ expectations. The team finished in the upper echelon in the Big Ten and was one bullshit, double OT loss from finishing 2nd. Despite the uncertainty surrounding this year’s team, there’s no doubt they’ll be fun to watch, because Talor Battle is in charge.
Here’s a breakdown of possible scenarios this season:
- The Dream : Big Ten Championship. This is what DeChellis would say if anyone asks what is the team’s goal is this year. Not happening.
- The Unrealistic Scenario : The NCAA tournament. If PSU ends up in the field of the 65, it will be considered a very, very successful year.
- The Realistic Scenario : The NIT. Gotta defend our championship.
- The Disappointing Scenario : The CBI or no postseason. This would be lame and a big step backwards.
I’m thinking the NIT is pretty much where we’ll end up, but I won’t rule out the NCAAs. If our defense is as good as I think it can be, and we figure out our offense before the Big Ten season, I think Penn State can surprise plenty of people. I sure as hell wouldn’t rule out Talor Battle. But I’ll stick with my prediction I gave UMHoops for my PSU preview; 10-2 out of conference, 7-11 in conference. I have no idea where those 7 wins are coming from, so please don’t ask.