#137 Penn State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #137
Conference Rank: #12 Big Ten

Penn State Team Page#137 Penn State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Penn State Basketball Tickets

Penn State suffered through another tough season in the Big Ten, winning just four conference games. That is the average for Coach Patrick Chambers. In four years with the Nittany Lions, he has won a mere 16 games in Big Ten play. At some point, that number will have to go up or Penn State will be forced to head in a different direction. The good news about last season is that the team went 18-16 overall. A winning record is a good place to start. However, the player who won most of those games for Penn State is now gone.

2014-15 Record: 18-16, 4-14
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Patrick Chambers
Coach Record: 56-75 at Penn State, 98-103 overall

Who’s Out:
D.J. Newbill did absolutely everything for this team. He averaged 20.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Nobody else on the squad averaged more than 9.2 points per game. Without Newbill, we will see what the rest of the team can really do…for better or worse. We will not get to see John Johnson, Ross Travis or Geno Thorpe though. Johnson only played in the first 16 games of the year for the Nittany Lions, yet he was a pretty good scorer off of the bench, especially when his outside shot was falling. Travis was a regular starter in the frontcourt, where he averaged 5.5 points and a team high 6.3 rebounds per game. Thorpe was one of the players who many expected would step up and help replace Newbill’s scoring. He averaged 8.7 points per game, yet was playing his best basketball in February and March. He reached double figures in the scoring column in seven of the last 12 games of the season. He is not returning next season and Penn State will almost certainly miss the 6-3 wing.

Who’s In:
Penn State’s high hopes rest largely on unproven freshmen. This program needs to get more talent and picking up the best recruiting class in school history is a good first step. Don’t expect immediate results though. Mike Watkins, a 6-8 forward, and Josh Reaves, a 6-4 guard, are the stars of the class. Watkins is a great athlete and can get up and down the floor in a hurry. Even if his offense takes some time to develop, which it likely will, Watkins can make a big splash blocking shots on the other end of the floor. Reaves is another player who thrives in transition. He has a lot of versatility and the talent and smarts to do whatever Coach Chambers needs him to do. Deividas Zemgulis has often been overlooked in this class, but the big 6-6 wing can knock down plenty of three-pointers and shoot over most defenders. He could be starting in a year or two, but for now Zemgulis will be a nice offensive weapon off of the bench. Isaiah Washington will also be seeing his first action with Penn State after redshirting last year. The 6-3 guard is a solid defender and will do a great job attacking the basket. His ability to handle the ball and create offensively may earn him minutes at the point this year.  

Who to Watch:
The backcourt duo of Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor will be asked to pick up much of the scoring slack. Garner, a 6-1 sophomore, is by far the best passer returning from last season and he also ranked second on the team with 9.2 points per game. Garner had some great games, most notably a late February tilt against Iowa where he scored 17 points and a March contest versus Nebraska where he went 5-of-8 from three-point territory. Garner is going to have to spend more time with the ball in his hands without Newbill, but Penn State has had plenty of good fortune with a scorer handling a bulk of the point guard duties. Taylor is the other proven shooter on the team. He knocked down 54 three-pointers last season, after connecting on 46 the previous year. At 6-6, Taylor is a big wing who can shoot over defenders and will do plenty of work on the glass too. He was second on the team in rebounding last year with 5.3 per game and will attempt to keep Penn State in the black when it comes to rebounding margin. Devin Foster failed to live up to expectations during his first year at Penn State after spending time in the junior college ranks. If Foster can attack the basket effectively like he did for a small stretch in late January and early February and Reaves lives up to his potential, Penn State has a very good backcourt for a team that lost their backcourt superstar.

Final Projection:
It is in the frontcourt where Penn State may have trouble competing against Big Ten talent. Donovon Jack is an experienced senior and the 6-9 power forward will likely be a full-time starter after starting a dozen games in 2014-2015. Jordan Dickerson is an intriguing option. The 7-1 senior center is a great shot blocker, but that is about it. In 17.1 minutes per game, he averaged just 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds. Payton Banks and Julian Moore should be able to earn more minutes after getting their feet wet as freshmen. However, outside of the potential of Watkins, there is not much in the frontcourt that should lead anybody to believe that Penn State can battle with the best big men in the conference. This team will get consistently outrebounded and somebody needs to score in the paint if the shooters on the perimeter are going to get any space to knock down shots. In the end, this season will likely be about building for the future and developing the younger talent. Anything more than four more wins in Big Ten play will be a good stepping stone.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Shep Garner, Sophomore, Guard, 9.2 points per game
Josh Reaves, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Brandon Taylor, Senior, Forward, 9.1 points per game
Donovon Jack, Senior, Forward, 3.5 points per game
Jordan Dickerson, Senior, Center, 2.6 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 66.9 (190th in nation, 10th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.2 (156, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.0 (252, 11)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.9 (45, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (131, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.4 (206, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.5 (158, 9)
Rebound Margin: -0.4 (205, 9)
Assists Per Game: 9.9 (322, 14)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.2 (140, 10)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#113 Josh Reaves
#116 Mike Watkins


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