The Big, Bad, Basketball Preview 2008(Part 2)

Back again for the thrilling conclusion. I’d strongly suggest checking out Part 1 if you haven’t done so already.

SCHEDULING OBSERVATIONS

Fri., Nov. 14 vs. William & Mary TV University Park, Pa. 6:30 p.m. ET
Mon., Nov. 17 vs. NJIT (Philly Hoop Group Classic) TV University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Thu., Nov. 20 vs. Hartford (Philly Hoop Group Classic) TV University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Nov. 23 vs. New Hampshire TV University Park, Pa. 2:00 p.m. ET
Tue., Nov. 25 at Penn Philadelphia, Pa. 7:30 p.m. ET
Fri., Nov. 28 vs. Rhode Island (Philly Hoop Group Classic) TV Philadelphia, Pa. (Palestra) 6:30 p.m. ET
Sat., Nov. 29 Villanova or Towson (Philly Hoop Group Classic) TV Philadelphia, Pa. TBA
Wed., Dec. 3 at Georgia Tech TV Atlanta, Ga. 7:30 p.m. ET
Sat., Dec. 6 vs. Temple TV University Park, Pa. 6:00 p.m. ET
Wed., Dec. 10 vs. Army TV University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Dec. 13 vs. Mount St. Mary’s TV University Park, Pa. 4:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Dec. 21 vs. Lafayette TV University Park, Pa. 4:00 p.m. ET
Tue., Dec. 23 vs. Sacred Heart TV University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Wed., Dec. 31 vs. Northwestern TV University Park, Pa. 12:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Jan. 3 at Wisconsin TV Madison, Wisc. 2:00 p.m. ET
Tue., Jan. 6 vs. Purdue TV University Park, Pa. 9:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Jan. 11 at Minnesota TV Minneapolis, Minn. 2 or 3:30 p.m. ET
Wed., Jan. 14 vs. Michigan State TV University Park, Pa. 6:30 p.m. ET
Sat., Jan. 17 at Indiana TV Bloomington, Ind. 6:00 p.m. ET
Tue., Jan. 20 vs. Michigan * TV University Park, Pa. 9:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Jan. 24 vs. Iowa TV University Park, Pa. 6:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Feb. 1 at Michigan State TV East Lansing, Mich. 12:00 p.m. ET
Thu., Feb. 5 at Michigan * TV Ann Arbor, Michigan 7:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Feb. 8 vs. Wisconsin TV University Park, Pa. 3:00 p.m. ET
Wed., Feb. 11 at Purdue TV West Lafayette, Ind. 6:30 p.m. ET
Sat., Feb. 14 vs. Minnesota TV University Park, Pa. 1:30 p.m. ET
Wed., Feb. 18 at Illinois * TV Champaign, Illinois 7:00 p.m. ET
Tue., Feb. 24 at Ohio State TV Columbus, Ohio 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Feb. 28 vs. Indiana TV University Park, Pa. 6:00 p.m. ET
Tue., Mar. 3 vs. Illinois * TV University Park, Pa. March 3, 4 or 5 ET
Sat., Mar. 7 at Iowa * TV Iowa City, Iowa 2:00 p.m. E

As you can see the non-conference slate represents a French pastry shop with all the cream-filled opponents just waiting to melt in everyone’s mouth. To be fair though, the NJIT and Hartford games are scheduled as part the “Philly Classic” tournament PSU will take part in on Thanksgiving weekend when they will face Rhode Island and possibly (depending on if PSU beats Rhode Island) Villanova. Additionally, a road game with Georgia Tech looms as part of the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

The home slate however, looks pretty damned boring from a fan’s perspective, save for Temple, who participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament.  But seriously folks: Army AND Lafayette?  Mt. St. Mary’s AND Sacred Heart?  Do we really need two teams from the same lower-tier conferences (Patriot and NEC)?

Likely reaction from the fans when PSU pummels yet another weakling from the Patriot League

Likely reaction from the fans when PSU pummels yet another weakling from the Patriot League

Does Ed DeChellis also realize how much harder he’s making it for the team to be taken seriously by the NCAA selection committee by scheduling so many cupcakes?  Case in point, somebody with a little too much free time on his hands posted a nice thread in the PennStateHoops.com message board with a “100 % NO PLAY LIST” that suggests teams PSU should avoid scheduling due to their ridiculously low RPI.

I managed to count not one, not two, but FIVE teams that met this “avoid like the plague” criteria: NJIT (341), New Hampshire (290), Army (255), Lafayette (192), and Mt. St. Mary’s (179).  Again, NJIT was unavoidable due to the Philly Hoops Classic but surely, there could’ve been teams from the lower to mid-major conferences that could’ve been scheduled over the other four teams on the list without sacrificing a sure-fire win. Don’t be surprised one bit if this comes back to bite them in the ass on Selection Sunday (if we even get on the bubble in the first place).

The Big Ten slate unfortunately, isn’t doing the Fighting DeChellises a favor a either by having them play Northwestern only once.  The good news though, is that this is the year to pull an unprecedented sweep of a decimated Indiana team that has revamped its entire roster and whose best returning player is a rarely-used reserve who averaged less than 2 points last season.  Additionally, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois should all be around our caliber once again which means PSU should at least be able to split our home-and-home series with them.

However, if PSU is going to eclipse last year’s 7-win mark in conference play, they’re going to have to pull a few shockers once again.  Might I suggest home games against Wisconsin, Purdue, or even a stronger Minnesota team to be the “upset special” this year?  Perhaps Michigan State could put together an encore performance at the BJC?  I don’t know, but the wins are going to have to be stolen from somewhere, and the road is not the best place to start looking for this team, given our 7-45 overall road record in the DeChellis era.

RECORD PROJECTIONS: Anything less than 11-3 going into the Big Ten slate is cause for alarm because we’ll likely face only 3 major conference programs, though I’d prefer for us to win at least two of the four games between Rhode Island/Villanova (if we beat Rhode Island)/Ga Tech/Temple in order to give us PSU hoops fans that false sense of something being accomplished before it likely comes crashing down in the Big Ten schedule again.

A first-person glimpse of the Penn State Basketball Experience after the non-conference schedule

A first-person glimpse of the "Penn State Basketball Experience" after the non-conference schedule

It’s hard to see us doing significantly better than the 7 wins in Big Ten play last year, particularly with our frontcourt issues and with most of the teams projected to improve (sans Indiana).  8 wins is possible if we can sweep Indiana, beat Northwestern in our lone matchup with them, beat each of the other teams around our caliber once (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan) and then upset a couple teams projected to finish near the top.  Anything more than 8 wins though would surely be cause for rioting in the streets because I just can’t realistically envision such things happening at this point in time.

With that being said, the talent and depth is in place to *finally* break even and finish with a winning overall record.  Quite frankly, that’s what the Nittany Nation should be expecting for right now.  An NCAA Tournament berth is still a pipe dream at best and would be an extremely pleasant surprise, but 18-20 wins overall and a run in the NIT would be a more realistic expectation and something to cheer about given how dismal things have been in the past.

Make no mistake about it though: A sixth non-winning record in six seasons would likely spell the end for Ed DeChellis as he’s used up all his “Get Out Of Jail Free” cards.  Last year, the team looked poised to finally get over the hump before the 16-point collapse against Minnesota and subsequent injuries to Claxton and Cornley, which is what likely bought DeChellis another year.  While I feel ED’s done a good job in cleaning up all the dead wood left over from the Jerry Dunn era and the Euro-disaster of 2005, his roster work needs to start translating into big gains in the “W” column.

And for once, can we avoid any catastrophic injury to a key player?  It seems every year something terrible happens that sidelines our best players for a good portion of the season (see: Geary Claxton’s ACL and Jamelle Cornley’s knee last year, Claxton’s hand in 2006, Danny Morrissey’s knee in 2005) and leads to an inevitable tumble down the rabbit hole.  I want to see how ED handles a squad that is relatively healthy throughout the entire season…

So that’s about it folks, fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride…Will the Fighting DeChellises finally end up in the promised land, or will they find themselves riding a coaching merry-go-round come March?  Stay tuned…

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2 Responses to The Big, Bad, Basketball Preview 2008(Part 2)

  1. Mike Dooris says:

    Tim, strange but true, but for some reason, there are still … well, I don’t know what the word is… “fans”??? Well, people interested in PSU basketball, I guess.
    Keep up the interesting posts!

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