2014-2015 ITH season preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

  • 09/18/2014 8:32 am in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Penn State Nittany Lions.

What a difference a year makes. After Penn State finished the 2012-13 season with a meager 10-21 record and 2-16 mark in conference play, the Nittany Lions showed last season they could be a formidable threat under Pat Chambers.

They pushed Indiana to the wire in State College. They beat Indiana in Bloomington. They also beat NCAA tournament squads Ohio State (twice), Nebraska and Mount St. Mary’s en route to a 16-18 (6-12) record and a berth into the College Basketball Invitational — their best season since 2010-2011.

Of course, that’s all in the past. But entering year four at Penn State, Chambers has proven he can make the Nittany Lions competitive in the Big Ten. And this season, the Nittany Lions could surprise, once again.

The big, glaring loss from last season’s team, though, is that of guard Tim Frazier, one of the all-time Penn State greats. The all-time assists leader at the school, Frazier provided the Nittany Lions with both on-court and off-court leadership — he was the team captain for three years, too. His loss leaves a lot to be made up for this season.

But not all is lost for Penn State this season. In fact, there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Last year’s leading scorer D.J. Newbill — who scored 24 against Indiana in last season’s first meeting — returns for his senior year this year. In fact, so do Penn State’s other three starters, forwards Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis and Donovon Jack. And the Nittany Lions also add freshmen guards Shep Garner (No. 173 recruit in the 247Sports Composite) and Isaiah Washington to the mix, adding to the depth lost in the departure of Frazier.

Bottom line: The Nittany Lions will likely not be one of the top teams in the Big Ten, but they certainly will be more of a competitive force this season as Chambers continues to get his team playing the impassioned brand of basketball he desires. He has always found a way to rally his team in his time at Penn State, and in life after Frazier, it will be especially important that this season’s squad meshes. But with four of five starters returning, Penn State has more experience and depth. And they certainly could surprise the Big Ten as the season goes on.

Quotable: “We’re getting the respect out there; two guys on all-conference teams. I see progress in everything we’re doing. This is a process. And I’m the most impatient person ever, but it’s slowly getting to where we want it to be.”  — Chambers on May 30

Previously: Rutgers

(Photo credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

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  • calbert40

    When I was younger and watching B1G games every Saturday after my own basketball practices, NW was my favorite non-IU team to root for. I liked Bill Foster. I thought their kids played really hard, and despite the fact they were an underdog in nearly every single game, they competed.

    I feel like PSU has taken over that “coveted” favorite non-IU team for me. I am always rooting for them when they play anyone else. I really like Chambers, and while they may be less talented than almost everyone else in the conference, there is no team that outworks PSU. I do feel that the loss of Frazier may be the most significant loss of any player in the league to his specific team, so I don’t expect much out of them (12th?), but they will be fun to watch compete every game.

    side note: am I the only one who feels there are some stark similarities between IU and PSU in regards to football and basketball? Obviously, the two schools are flipped, but I feel like each has a program that is historically one of the elites, but has fallen on hard times recently due to some form of scandal, while the “stepchild” program works its tail off but rarely sees any positive results.

  • plane1972

    I kinda have the same feeling about Nebraska, but they are threatening to surpass us if we can’t gain some consistency. I certainly don’t want to be looking up at Nebraska in the conference standings, but I do like what Tim Miles is doing there.

  • Gregory Spera

    I must second your feelings on Bill Foster and especially Tim Miles. They are the “equalizer” when they take their less talented squads against teams like Indiana and Ohio State.

  • Bryce Kepner

    News flash: Nebraska did a lot better than us last year

  • HoosierGrampy

    Fran McCaffery is one of my favorites…his teams are always getting after it…

  • FinEndNow

    PSU got a pretty good JUCO kid in Devin Foster from Vincennes University. Got to see the kid play some and play with him in the rec center. Lefty that is a good shooter. Will have to guard him outside if he’s in the game for sure. Averaged about 18 this past year at VU.

  • MillaRed

    I think the season really, really needs to start.

  • calbert40

    Boy, I don’t know if I could disagree any more. Outside of Bo, I think he is my least favorite of all the B1G coaches. His teams do play very hard, though.

    I wonder where Crean ranks for other team’s fans?

  • calbert40

    Now, he can’t sneak up on anyone, so I am interested to see how they handle expectations. Let’s see what they do now. But, I am with all of on NU…I like Miles and think he has done a great job there.

  • plane1972

    Not a news flash to anyone, Bryce. By “threatening to surpass us” I mean in terms of success over an extended period, not just one season. They are trending up, we are not…YET.

  • Sandhya

    I can think of at least 4 fan bases who hate him

  • SCHoosier

    Newbill can’t beat anyone by himself..but he thinks he can and will put up the shots to prove it.

  • Snookafly

    I really like Chambers too especially after seeing him on The Journey, but last year reminded me why there are no such things as ‘second favorites’ for me in this league. I guess getting humiliated on your home court will do that. I like to think of us more as an Alabama football program–counted out by everyone but the fans for almost 20 years but ready to turn the corner into dominance. Besides, I can’t compare a coach making too many phone calls for recruiting to turning a blind eye to child rape.

  • marcusgresham

    I feel like Miles is a season or two away from taking a “bigger, better” job. I don’t care how much success he has at Nebraska, he’s too good to eventually wither away there.

  • marcusgresham

    Outside of Bo he’s your least favorite? You should probably be slapped for not having Thad Matta in that position. lol

  • marcusgresham

    I’m pretty sure Frazier was on the welcoming committee when Joe Paterno was hired at Penn St. because he was there forrrrrrrreverrrrrrrrrrr.

  • plane1972

    I agree, but it will take a pretty good job to lure him away from those facilities. I have to think Nebraska is a relatively low-stress hoops job (for a power conference job). He’s doing a nice job recruiting the Plains. If he could find a way to tap into Texas consistently, he might not need to leave.

  • plane1972

    That’s just not realistic anymore. Any given night you can lose to anyone in the B1G, even at home.

  • calbert40

    haha! Matta is next in line for me, but I just can’t handle Fran on the sidelines. I feel like he goes crazy when it is fairly obvious that the call was correct. He does it for effect, but he just isn’t as smooth about it as others.

  • Bryce Kepner

    Have we really had success over an extended period here lately?

  • calbert40

    I wasn’t comparing the severity of the scandal, hence the “some form of scandal” remark. I think it is pretty ridiculous that the NCAA lessened the penalty on PSU a couple weeks ago. If ever there was a time where the NCAA truly needed to make an example of a school, that was the time. They failed yet again.

  • Alford Bailey

    Got ties to Alabama. Some similarities. Problem is we don’t have a “Nick Saban” for a basketball coach and I don’t get the feeling the administration will ever hire a guy on that level.

  • marcusgresham

    Funny you say that, because I was thinking of Texas as being the kind of place he could land. Besides, the Priller signing shows that Indiana has already formed the pipeline from Texas. lol

  • Snookafly

    Sadly, agreed. It’s my pipe dream.

  • plane1972

    OK, Bryce. I didn’t think I was being that cryptic with my comment, but apparently it is slow enough that we have to conjure up arguments, at this point.

  • plane1972

    I hadn’t previously considered that, but you’re right. Texas would be a logical step for him.

  • Bryce Kepner

    no no no, I was not trying to start any sort of argument or fight. Just an honest question that really made me think as well

  • plane1972

    Sorry I misinterpreted, Bryce.