On Wednesday, Jan. 10, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas published an article breaking down the top 68 men’s college basketball teams as of right now.
One of those happened to be Penn State, who landed at No. 46.
As men’s CBB is past its halfway mark, Penn State holds a 12-6 overall record, while they are 2-3 in Big Ten play, good for eighth in the conference.
At No. 46, Penn State projects to be a tournament eligible team when March Madness rolls around.
The doubters could eat their words, as quite a number of Penn State fans were not convinced that the men’s team was a tournament contender.
Before we crack open the champagne and blast “Zombie Nation”, a tournament berth is not a closed deal.
A tough schedule, and not-so-satisfying results
Thus far, the Nittany Lions have had a fairly easy schedule with games against Fairleigh Dickinson, Columbia, Oral Roberts and Campbell.
I wonder if my old high school varsity team could beat those teams (sarcasm).
But, the point is that Penn State’s wins have not been all that challenging.
When they have faced tougher competition, the Nittany Lions net a different result: losses.
It is also important to not the resume-damaging losses to Wisconsin and Rider College.
Penn State’s earlier finishes against these stronger opponents brings about some skepticism of its tournament berth.
With Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Maryland and Ohio State times two remaining on the schedule it does not bode well for the Nittany Lions, as Bilas pointed out, too, in his brief assessment of the team.
Following that season overview, Penn State does have the talent and the coaching to sneak into the tournament, but it will be difficult.
What Penn State must do to dance
While they are the best players on the team, the deciding factor will be the play of sophomore forward Lamar Stevens.
Stevens is the second-leading scorer (15.3 PPG) behind Carr and the second-leading rebounder (6.7 RPG) behind Watkins.
No. 11 is the x-factor as the Nittany Lions need another dimension on both sides of the court.
Penn State basketball 2017-18 player values (updated 1/10/18)— Sekrah Sports (@sekrah) January 10, 2018
Josh Reaves, +6.5 points/game above average D1 player.
Mike Watkins, +4.75
Tony Carr, +3.0
Lamar Stevens, +1.5
Shep Garner, +1.5
Jamari Wheeler, +1.5
Julian Moore, +0.5
Nazeer Bostick, 0
When opponents decide to double Carr and Watkins gets into foul trouble, it usually ends up being the kryptonite for Blue & White.
However, combine Stevens’ improved game on the floor and a stingy defense that allows 65.3 points per game, there is a formula to breaking through the talented and crowded Big Ten.
Finally, head coach Pat Chambers must continue to draw up a game plan that makes his team stouter overall.
Outside of Carr, Watkins, Stevens and Jamari Wheeler’s speed, the Nittany Lions are undersized and can be bullied down low.
Jamari Wheeler sticking to his man like a psycho ex pic.twitter.com/RmV33Jnl1i— Barstool Penn State (@PSUBarstool) November 30, 2017
The full court press has been the staple of this team, and Chambers will most likely use it again to keep opponents from exploiting their weaknesses.
The Nittany Lions do possess a number of obstacles, but as of right now, they do and should continue to project as a tournament-bound team.