#83 Penn State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions


2017-2018 Overall Rank: #83
Conference Rank: #11 Big Ten

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Penn State had one of the most inexperienced teams last season, with no true seniors on the roster. Despite the inexperience, the Nittany Lions showed quite a bit of promise, including wins over Michigan State, Minnesota and Maryland. Penn State will lose three contributors from last season, but they also return five of their top six scorers. Coach Pat Chambers has never won more than seven conference games in the Big Ten, but this season could very well be his best shot at reaching .500 in conference play. If the Lions get to nine conference wins and play well in the non-conference slate, an NCAA Tournament appearance isn’t completely out of the question. However, Penn State hasn’t played postseason basketball since 2014 and getting invited to any postseason tournament would be a success for the program.  
2016-17 Record: 15-18, 6-12
2016-17 Postseason:
Pat Chambers
Coach Record:
87-109 at Penn State, 129-137 overall
Who’s Out:
Penn State had no seniors on the roster last season, but the Nittany Lions still lose three contributors that decided to transfer. Juniors Payton Banks and Terrence Samuel have both elected to become grad transfers and play their final season at South Florida. Banks spent most of the season coming off the bench, but was fourth on the team in scoring with 10.4 points per game. Banks was one of the better three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.3% of his 6.3 three-point attempts per game. Samuel was a reserve guard in his lone season at Penn State after transferring in from Connecticut. Samuel’s playing time dwindled as the season went along and he finished with 3.9 points and 1.8 assists per game. Also transferring is Isaiah Washington, who played two seasons at Penn State after redshirting his first year on campus. Washington played just 5.0 minutes per game in 17 appearances last season, and decided to finish his college career at Quinnipiac.
Who’s In:
Penn State will add a transfer of their own this season along with three true freshmen. Satchel Pierce, a transfer from Virginia Tech, will be eligible to play in 2017-18. Pierce is a seven-footer who only saw limited playing time at Virginia Tech and should have a greater role at Penn State. Coach Pat Chambers also went out and signed three freshmen this offseason. Three-star guard Jamari Wheeler joins the program after initially committing to Duquesne before their coach was fired after the 2016-17 season. Wheeler decided to commit to Penn State where he will provide the Lions some much needed depth at guard. Also joining the program is two-star 6-8 forward Trent Buttrick, who can stretch the floor at the power forward position. The Lions will also add two-star forward John Harrar, who was also recruited by schools as a tight end out of high school. Harrar decided to focus on basketball and adds to Penn State’s frontcourt depth.
Who to Watch:
One benefit to having a young team is the experience those players gain for future seasons. Penn State will return five of their top six scorers, all of whom played 20-plus minutes per game. Leading that group are sophomores Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens. Carr was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team behind his 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Carr has legitimate all-conference upside, and should only get better in his second collegiate season. Stevens was the team’s second leading scorer (12.7 points) and rebounder (5.5 boards). While both players produced individually, they will need to improve their on-court leadership in order to win more games this season. The rest of the Lions’ starting lineup will include key contributors from last season. Shep Garner is the oldest of the group, as a four-year senior at Penn State. Garner’s production dipped as a junior with the arrivals of Carr and Stevens, but he still put up 12 points per game and shot 35.8% from three. Josh Reaves will be a junior this season after a well-rounded sophomore season with 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Lastly, Mike Watkins was impressive as a freshman at the center position, scoring 9.7 points, grabbing 8.0 rebounds and swatting 2.7 blocks per game.
Final Projection:
Pat Chambers may have his deepest and most talented roster since he took over in 2011-12. Returning studs Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens should take steps forward this season after impressive freshmen campaigns. The entire starting lineup is comprised of returning contributors who scored at least seven points per game and played 20-plus minutes per game. Even their bench depth has familiar faces with Julian Moore, Deividas Zemgulis, and Nazeer Bostick all back after limited roles last season. The Nittany Lions also add a seven-foot transfer and three true freshmen, all of whom could contribute right away. The Big Ten will always be a tough conference for Penn State to compete in, but this could be the first year they get to .500 in conference play. Penn State is on the right track to make their first postseason appearance since the 2013-14 season.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Tony Carr, Sophomore, Guard, 13.2 points per game

Shep Garner, Senior, Guard, 12.0 points per game
Josh Reaves, Junior, Guard, 7.7 points per game
Lamar Stevens, Sophomore, Forward, 12.7 points per game
Mike Watkins, Sophomore, Center, 9.7 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.7 (209th in nation, 10th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 72.7 (191, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.4 (307, 13)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.0 (132, 10)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (216, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.9 (234, 12)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.5 (49, 4)
Rebound Margin: -3.4 (291, 14)
Assists Per Game: 13.7 (157, 9)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.0 (173, 8)