Big Ten Team Previews: Penn State Nittany Lions

Posted by KTrahan on November 9th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Where we left off: A year removed from an NCAA Tournament berth, Penn State went into rebuilding mode and struggled to return to relevancy. The Nittany Lions featured one of the best players in the Big Ten in Tim Frazier, but had no consistency elsewhere, especially in the frontcourt. Forwards Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak struggled mightily and guards Jermaine Marshall and Cammeron Woodyard weren’t consistent enough to complement Frazier. The Nittany Lions ended up finishing 12-20 and 4-14 in the Big Ten. This year, there will be a lot of new faces, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as Patrick Chambers and his team try to regroup.

Tim Frazier Carries the Penn State Hoops Baton (CDC Photos/Christopher Weddle)

Positives: Obviously, the biggest positive for Penn State is Tim Frazier, who led the Nittany Lions in points, assists and rebounds last year and figures to be a first team All-Big Ten contender. Additionally, the Nittany Lions add D.J. Newbill, a redshirt sophomore who sat out a year after transferring from Southern Mississippi. He was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team two years ago, and he and Frazier should form an impressive backcourt duo. The frontcourt won’t be great, but Graham and Borovnjak should be improved this year, and Ross Travis has shown promise at forward.

Negatives: After Frazier, there are a lot of unknowns. Newbill certainly has talent, but will he be rusty after a year off and can he compete in the toughest conference in the country? The frontcourt still lacks talent and there’s no guarantee that Graham or Borovnjak will improve. The depth is there, but it’s not very talented depth, especially in the frontcourt. The Nittany Lions will be a very small team, and in a league full of talented big men, that could be a very big disadvantage.

Best case: If everything clicks this year for Penn State, the Nittany Lions could be looking at a similar scenario to Iowa last year. The Hawkeyes struggled in the non-conference season, but despite some inconsistency, Iowa had enough big wins to earn an NIT bid. If the forwards step up, Frazier continues to play well, and Newbill is worth the hype, this team could be dangerous, especially in games when the guards all shoot well on the perimeter.

Worst case: Right now, the only player we know a lot about is Frazier, and if he’s the only one who pans out this year, the Nittany Lions will struggle. In a worst-case scenario, there will be a few bad non-conference losses combined with a streak of losses to start a very difficult Big Ten slate. The forwards will struggle mightily with the size of their Big Ten opposition and if the guards, like last year, can’t get into a consistent rhythm, PSU finishes behind even Nebraska, regressing from last year.

Projected starters:

  • G — Tim Frazier (Sr)
  • G — Jermaine Marshall (RS Jr)
  • G — D.J. Newbill (RS So)
  • F — Ross Travis (So)
  • F — Jon Graham (RS So)

Key reserves: Sasa Borovnjak (RS Jr, F), Nick Colella (Sr, G)

Analysis: Penn State lacks size this year, so regardless of who starts, it will be a small lineup featuring three guards. Frazier and Newbill are the most obvious starters, and while Marshall needs to gain consistency this year, he’s the Nittany Lions’ best option at the third guard spot. Travis appears to have a spot locked down, while the final forward spot will be a battle between Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak. We’re going with Graham for now, but both will see significant minutes.

KTrahan (60 Posts)

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