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2011-12 College Basketball Season Preview: Penn State

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Penn State Nittany Lions (Last Year: 19-15, 9-9 in Big Ten)

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

F/C: Pat Ackerman (Fr)/Peter Alexis (Fr)

PF: Billy Oliver (So)/Jonathan Graham (Fr)/Sasa Borovnjak (So)

G/F: Jermaine Marshall (So)/Ross Travis (Fr)

SG: Cammeron Woodyard (Sr)/Matt Glover (So)/Tre Bowman (So)

PG: Tim Frazier (Jr)/Trey Lewis (Fr)

Gone: G-Talor Battle, F/C-Andruw Jones III, G/F-David Jackson, PF-Jeff Brooks, PG-Taran Buie (transfer-Hofstra)

2011-12 Outlook:
In one of the more surprising coaching moves in college basketball, Ed DeChellis left his alma mater to take the head coaching position at Navy. This move came just months after DeChellis led the Nittany Lions to the first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade. This puts into question how successful one can be coaching at Penn State, which is undoubtedly a football school. Boston University head coach Patrick Chambers replaces DeChellis and takes over a roster that loses a lot of talent.

The biggest challenge for Chambers will be replacing the school's all-time leading scorer, Talor Battle, who carried the Nittany Lions (or as Paul M. Banks referred to them "Penn State Talor Battles") to the tourney last season. Making matters even more complicated, Penn State also loses its starting frontcourt of Jeff Brooks, Andruw Jones, and David Jackson.

The only starter back at State College is junior point guard Tim Frazier who is also the team's top returning scorer despite averaging just 6.3 points per game. Frazier was more of a true facilitator last season, dishing out more than five assists per game, but will have to take on more of the scoring load this season. Senior Cammeron Woodyard and redshirt sophomore Jermaine Marshall saw limited minutes off the bench last season but will likely take on starting roles on the wing.

The backcourt depth took a hit when Battle's half-brother, Taran Buie was involved in an on-campus fight and ultimately decided to transfer out of the program. Sophomore shooting guard Tre Bowman was part of that same altercation and will be held out of game action until January as a disciplinary measure. That leaves freshman point guard Trey Lewis and JUCO transfer Matt Glover as the only reserve guards who are under scholarship.

Question marks fill the frontcourt as reserve Billy Oliver is the only returning player from a year ago. Six-foot-eight Jonathan Graham redshirted last season as a freshman and should be asked to contribute immediately. Six-foot-11 freshmen Pat Ackerman and Peter Alexis will try to provide an inside presence as Oliver and Graham are both versatile forwards who can step out and knock down jumpers. Freshman Ross Travis will add more athleticism to the frontcourt while Sasa Borovnjak returns after missing last season with a torn ACL.

Missing more than 78 percent of their scoring (which is especially alarming since they finished 298th in the country in scoring) and 75 percent of their rebounding from a year ago, the Nittany Lions face a massive re-building project. In this year of transition, expect thems to return to a position that they have become familiar with since joining the Big Ten; the doormat of the conference.

Player to Watch: Tim Frazier, PG
Often deferring to Battle last season, Frazier learned how to be a distributing point guard. However, he must become more aggressive in scoring the basketball this year if the Nittany Lions are going to have any hope of being a respectable team. It will be interesting to see if Chambers switches styles and allows his team to play a little more up-tempo rather than the grind-it-out-style Penn State has played the past few seasons. Frazier might excel with more transition opportunities, and it would give him a chance to use his quickness and athleticism in the open court.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/19 vs. Kentucky (Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament)
  • 11/20 vs. Old Dominion/South Florida (Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament)
  • 11/30 at Boston College

    Predicted Big Ten Finish: 12th

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