Part Two will simply take a look at the schedule and feature my prediction for this year.
As I am typing this, PSU is battling St. Francis (PA) in its season opener, that game will be followed by a home date with Canisius Friday night before we move on to the Old Spice Classic holiday tournament down in Disney World for Thanksgiving weekend where our first round opponent will be South Carolina.
Following the Old Spice Classic, we host Virginia Tech as part of the Big10-ACC Challenge before traveling down to the Palestra in Phillyto take on St. Joseph’s. A week after St. Joe’s, the team will be looking for revenge at the BJC when they host Seton Hall whom they blew a giant lead against last year up in Jersey.
The rest of December is filled with a former Ivy League stalwart in Princeton followed by a few cupcakes in Denver, Lehigh, and Colgate.
Since the Big Ten has now switched to an 18-game schedule instead of 16, we play every team twice save for two teams. The good news is we don’t have to make a return trip to Ohio State but the bad news is we only play our guaranteed win, Northwestern only once (at Northwestern).
Expectations were running high last year coming off the NIT berth and instead of improving, we slipped back to the form we showed during Ed DeChellis’ first two seasons as coach. Many people were calling for ED’s head at the end of last season and I was likely one of the more patient folks who advocated giving ED one more year, particularly because of all the new talent he was inheriting to accompany Claxton/Cornley and Walker/Morrissey. The parts finally seem to be in place to run the up-tempo style of game that DeChellis has intended to play all along and it’s now “do or die” regarding his Penn State coaching career, no more excuses unless half the team goes down with injuries (which is certainly possible given our string of luck with injuries). Look for an athletic backcourt to create more scoring opportunities for us while defensively we will play more man-to-man than ever before along with a decent amount of pressing thrown in to stymie opponents, it will be dramatically different from the PSU b-ball we’ve been used to seeing these last several years.
Contrary to Black Shoe Diaries, I am a little more optimistic. We will play three games in the Old Spice Classic regardless so I’m going to say we go 2-1 in that. Out of the rest of the OOC opponents, the only games that truly concern me are Va Tech, St. Joe’s , and Seton Hall (Princeton is trying to get out of the Ivy League basement right now, they are not your older brother’s Tigers). I think we will take down a young and depleted Va Tech squad and exact revenge on Seton Hall in the confines of the BJC but will lose to St. Joe’s. Assuming we hold serve in the rest of our games, I’m envisioning a 10-2 record going into Big Ten play.
Once in Big Ten play though, things will obviously get tougher. However, with the influx of depth/talent this year, the increased number of games on the schedule, plus the fact the Big Ten will be in a down year yet again…I’m going to say we go 7-11 in conference and WILL shock a team that finishes amongst the Top 4 in the conference by season’s end (Indiana, MSU, Ohio State, and Wisconsin will likely end up finishing there so take your pick of one out of those four).
This would leave us with a final regular season record of 17-13, given how difficult it is to make the NIT these days we would probably need to win a game or two in the Big Ten tourney or somehow run the table and win the whole thing and get the auto-bid to the Big Dance if we’re going to see a post-season of any kind.
So that’s my two cents. I’m curious to see what your take is, so drop me a comment if you like.