#132 Penn State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #132
Conference Rank: #11 Big Ten
Penn State has reason to be optimistic. Some key contributors are gone from last year’s .500 team, but Coach Patrick Chambers is bringing in some good young talent that is ready to step up. The Nittany Lions closed last season on a relatively high note. During a stretch in February, the team won four of five contests, including games against Indiana and Iowa. This group has the talent to beat some good teams again in 2016-2017. As the lone returning player who averaged double digits in the scoring column, Shep Garner will have to lead the way. After averaging 14.8 points and a team high 3.4 assists, Garner is more than ready to be the team’s leader on the floor.
2015-16 Record: 16-16, 7-11
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Patrick Chambers
Coach Record: 72-91 at Penn State, 114-119 overall
Who’s Out:
Losing 6-6 swingman Brandon Taylor is a big loss for Penn State. During his senior season he led the Nittany Lions with 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. He was also second to only Garner in three-pointers made. Jordan Dickerson, a 7-1 center, will not be easy to replace either. Dickerson was never a scorer and did not really play starter minutes despite starting 24 games on the year, but he was a big presence in the paint. Donovon Jack provided even more frontcourt depth and had the ability to step outside and knock down some mid-range jumpers. Devin Foster was the other senior on the roster last season. He was not much of a scorer either, but Foster could handle the ball and knock down a few shots off of the bench.
Who’s In:
The talented group of newcomers is what has Penn State fans excited about the present and the future. Mike Watkins redshirted last season and should now be ready to contribute major minutes. The 6-8, 245 pound forward is a great athlete for a player his size and he eventually he will be able to do it all for Penn State. For now, even if his scoring takes a little more time to come around, Watkins can block some shots and provide that presence in the paint that this team desperately needs. Joe Hampton and Lamar Stevens will add more frontcourt options. Stevens is a tough, 6-6 small forward who can jump out of the gym and score in bunches. Prep teammates Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick will join Stevens as incoming freshmen. Carr is a big point guard who will take over this team sooner or later. He will certainly push for a starting job as a freshman. Connecticut transfer Terrence Samuel has the experience to start from day one. As a sophomore with the Huskies two years ago, Samuel averaged 3.8 points and 1.6 assists in 21.4 minutes per game. At Penn State, he should be able to show off his scoring ability a little more.
Who to Watch:
Penn State has a lot of talent returning on the perimeter. Payton Banks had a very promising sophomore season, averaging 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds. He also turned into a pretty dangerous outside shooter. At 6-6, Banks would ideally play on the wing, but he could spend some time at the four spot due to the talent Penn State has on the perimeter. Josh Reaves had a promising freshman campaign, averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. He is a big 6-4 guard who can attack the basket very effectively. However, his outside shot was painful to watch last season. He connected on just three of his 39 attempts from beyond the arc. With increased efficiency in that regard, Reaves could easily emerge as a double digit scorer as a sophomore.
Final Projection:
The key for Penn State will be their frontcourt play. Like most years at Penn State, the backcourt will do a big chunk of the scoring, but the forwards still need to play some defense and block some shots. With Taylor, Jack and Dickerson gone, Penn State lost a lot of their size. Watkins should be able to fill some of the void and Banks can help out on the glass, but the Nittany Lions will need junior Julian Moore to start living up to his potential. Moore averaged 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds last season and started a dozen games, but he has the potential do a lot more. As long as somebody in the frontcourt can block some shots and get some rebounds, Penn State will be in decent shape. If the frontcourt can find an interior scorer, this could be a Penn State team that pulls off a few surprises in the Big Ten.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Shep Garner, Junior, Guard, 14.8 points per game
Terrence Samuel, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Josh Reaves, Sophomore, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Payton Banks, Junior, Forward, 9.4 points per game
Mike Watkins, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 65.8 (311th in nation, 14th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.6 (115, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 40.7 (308, 13)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.4 (110, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.6 (212, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 31.7 (294, 13)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.6 (178, 11)
Rebound Margin: -1.3 (234, 11)
Assists Per Game: 10.1 (339, 14)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.3 (53, 6)

Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#54 Tony Carr
#101 Lamar Stevens