The next Big Ten basketball team we will be previewing is Penn State. Last year, Penn State had one of their best years in recent memory. They made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and even won a game. However, the offseason was not kind to the Nittany Lions. They lost their head coach, Micah Shrewsberry, to Notre Dame. They also lost Jalen Pickett, who was an all-conference player, to the NBA.
The Nittany Lions brought in Mike Rhoades, from VCU, to be their new coach. At VCU, Rhoades led the Rams to three NCAA Tournaments and two A-10 Championships.
Big Ten Basketball Preview: Penn State
Penn State is going to have a lot of roster turnover. Not only did they lose their star in Pickett, but they also lost much of their starting lineup. This includes key contributors such as Myles Dread, Seth Lundy, and Andrew Funk.
Despite all of their losses, they do bring in a few quality players through the transfer portal. Most notably, they bring in VCU guard Ace Baldwin who was the A-10 Player of the Year last season. He will have to be the leader of the team if they hope to repeat last year’s success. The Nittany Lions also bring in two center transfers, Qudus Wahab and Favour Aire. These were much-needed additions as Penn State was the smallest team in the conference last season. Wahab already has experience in the Big Ten from when he played for Maryland in the 2021/2022 season. The other notable transfer is Puff Johnson from North Carolina. Johnson showed promise for the Tar Heels but never truly found his footing. He looks to have an expanded role in Happy Valley.
The biggest strength of the team should be their defense. Rhoades’ specialty has been his ability to play strong defense at every stop of his career. Over the past three seasons, VCU finished in the top fifteen of defensive efficiency. They ended the season as high as seventh in 2022. This will fit in well in the Big Ten, a conference known for its slow and physical play.
Another strength for the team will be Ace Baldwin. He is one of the most talented guards in the country and will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He is a quick guard that can get to the rim with ease. Even though he will now he will be playing more difficult competition, his abilities should be more than enough to be effective in the Big Ten.
Three-point shooting will be a struggle for Penn State this year. Last year, the Nittany Lions were the seventh-best three-point shooting team in the country. However, their sharpshooters, Funk and Lundy, have left. Their replacements are not nearly as threatening from deep.
Depth will also be an issue for Penn State. In college basketball, having a large transfer class is typically an indicator of a weak bench. While Penn State has a talented lineup, their rotation will be lacking. They have a few strong bench pieces, most notably Kanye Clary, but the overall depth could be improved.
The Verdict: Penn State will see some serious regression this season
This season’s preview for Penn State will not be as promising as last season. While they will not be a bad team, they lose a lot of talent. They also only bring in one player, Ace Baldwin, who has proven to be a difference-maker at the collegiate level. They will not finish last in the conference, but they will likely finish towards the bottom.