2024-25 Big Ten offseason at a glance: Penn State Nittany Lions

  • 05/20/2024 11:05 am in

Welcome to “Big Ten offseason at a glance,” a team-by-team look at the conference at the start of the summer. We’ll examine roster movement for each Big Ten roster and give an early outlook for each Big Ten program for the 2024-25 season.

Up first: Penn State (16-17 overall in 2023-24, 9-11 in Big Ten play)

Penn State is the lowest-ranked Big Ten team currently in Bart Torvik’s rankings for the 2024-25 season. It will enter season two under Mike Rhoades next winter.

Penn State roster movement

Players returning with eligibility remaining: Ace Baldwin Jr., D’Marco Dunn, Nick Kern, Zach Hicks, Puff Johnson

Players departing due to exhausted eligibility: Leo O’Boyle, Qudus Wahab, RayQuawndis Mitchell

Players who departed via the transfer portal: Kayne Clary (to Mississippi State), Jameel Brown (to Temple), Demetrius Lilley (to La Salle), Favour Aire, Bragi Gudmundsson (to Campbell)

Players arriving via the transfer portal: Eli Rice (from Nebraska), Kachi Nzeh (from Xavier), Freddie Dilione V (from Tennessee), Yanic Konan Niederhauser (from Northern Illinois)

Players arriving via high school: Miles Goodman, Hudson Ward, Dominick Stewart, Jahvin Carter

The Nittany Lions have filled all 13 scholarships for next season. They’re also welcoming a high school recruiting class of four players, an unusually high number in the transfer portal era. If Penn State can develop and retain its large freshman class over multiple seasons, that could pay dividends in the future.

What to like about Penn State

Rhoades kept the Nittany Lions competitive in season one. They swept Indiana in the regular season before falling to the Hoosiers in the Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis.

While Penn State will be relying on many newcomers, the returning nucleus is solid, as Baldwin Jr. is one of the best point guards in the conference. All five of Penn State’s returnees will be seniors next winter. Kern was an honorable All-Big Ten pick by the league’s coaches, Hicks showed himself to be a capable floor spacer and Dunn and Johnson both were productive at times despite their inconsistencies. The Nittany Lions added three high major transfers in Rice, Nzeh and Dilione V.

What to question with Penn State

The overall talent level is still a question for Penn State in a Big Ten that is expected to be more competitive than ever with the additions of four PAC-12 programs.

The Nittany Lions have a clear question mark at the five as Nzeh, Goodman and Niederhauser will battle it out for minutes. In a rugged Big Ten full of capable of post players, that’s not a position where a program should be thin. Penn State was last in the Big Ten in 2-point field goal defense at 54.9 percent allowed last season.

Penn State likely hasn’t addressed its biggest issue from last season, which was rebounding. The Nittany Lions were 12th in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage and 13th in defensive rebounding percentage. Their ultra-aggressive defense and up-tempo style of play resulted in a ton of forced turnovers but also a lot of fouling and free throws by their opposition.

Penn State’s outlook for the 2024-25 season

Here’s Penn State’s Big Ten schedule for next season:

Home: Maryland, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oregon, Purdue, Washington
Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, USC, Wisconsin
Home/Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Rutgers

As mentioned, Penn State is currently the lowest-ranked Big Ten team in Bart Torvik’s ratings for next season. As of Monday, May 20, the Nittany Lions are No. 96, 27 spots lower than the next closest team.

In this author’s eyes, it would be a surprise if Penn State is the worst team in the Big Ten next season. Rhoades won nine league games last season with a roster full of primarily transfers. With a season under his belt to learn the conference and plenty of experience returning, Penn State’s guard play and rugged style of play should again give plenty of programs trouble, particularly at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park.

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