Season In Review: Penn State Nittany LionsPosted by jnowak on April 18th, 2013
Penn State may be the most interesting case study of all teams in the Big Ten this year. Just based purely on numbers and record, they were by and large the worst team in the conference. They nearly went winless in conference play, and after Tim Frazier went down with a season-ending injury early in the year, it was unclear how this team would function at all. While it was indeed a really steep and slow learning curve, a couple really talented players emerged and kept the Nittany Lions’ season interesting. For that reason, there are few teams in the conference with as much intrigue surrounding them heading into next year. Let’s take a look back at Penn State’s season:
- The good: In some ways, we’re really grasping at straws here. We’re talking about what looked like it would be the first team to go 0-18 in the Big Ten before it pulled off an incredible upset against Michigan on February 27, and then put away Northwestern on March 7 to finish with two wins in their last five games. That Michigan win, all things considered, could have been the biggest upset of the college basketball season (apologies to TCU). But on a larger scale, the emergence of Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill gave fans a great deal to be excited about next year. Believe it or not, they will represent the conference’s top two returning scorers after the departures of the likes of Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke and Deshaun Thomas. Granted, their production came largely because there was little to no supporting cast around them, but scorers are scorers and Penn State will have a few of them next year. It also bears mentioning that the Nittany Lions put together a nice four-game winning streak through much of December. It was against some pretty bad teams, sure, but it’s still something.
- The bad: Where do we begin? Penn State relied more on Tim Frazier than probably any team in the conference — save for Ohio State and Deshaun Thomas, maybe — relied on any single player. So when an already mediocre team lost a player like that, you knew things were going to turn bad. And they did. The scoring was ugly (PSU ranked 298th in the country scoring 61.6 PPG and 326th with a field goal percentage of 39.5 percent) and the defense was equally bad. They were blown out by some good teams and blown out by some bad teams. They finished the year last in the conference in scoring defense, scoring margin, field goal and three-point shooting, and assist-to-turnover ratio. It’s hard to win games with putrid stats like that, especially in this league.
- The future: …is actually pretty bright in State College. We’re not looking at a Final Four team by any stretch of the imagination and, of course, there’s really no place for Penn State to go but up, but there are plenty of things for fans to be excited about. It really feels like Patrick Chambers has a good grasp on this program and how he expects it to improve, and perhaps a year playing without Tim Frazier was a great blessing in disguise for the young Nittany Lions. Newbill and Marshall emerged as terrific Big Ten players and now they’ll be joined next season by one of the conference’s best pure scorers. Don’t expect them to dwell in the Big Ten cellar again, and that feared 0-18 conference record is very far back in the rear-view mirror at this point.