Maintaining success has never been more difficult in college basketball. The combination of the transfer portal and the NBA Draft makes each offseason both eventful and potentially transformative for most programs.
Now that the smoke has mostly cleared following the 2021-22 season, we’ll go team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess which programs are set up for success, and who might take a step back.
Next up is Penn State. In his first season head coach Micah Shrewsberry led the Nittany Lions to 14-17 record overall and a 7-13 mark in the Big Ten. Overall Penn State has had just one year above .500 in the Big Ten in the last 13 seasons, a stretch that now spans four head coaches. They’ve had only three seasons above .500 in the conference since beginning play in 1992-93.
- Sam Sessoms (11.6 PPG),
- John Harrar (10.6 PPG),
- Greg Lee (6.1 PPG),
- Jaheam Cornwall (2.4 PPG),
- Jalanni White (2.3 PPG)
- Jalen Pickett, SG (13.3 PPG),
- Seth Lundy, SF (11.9 PPG),
- Myles Dread, SG (6.2 PPG),
- Dallion Johnson, SG (3.7 PPG),
- Caleb Dorsey, PF (0.9 PPG)
- Camren Wynter, PG (15.8 PPG at Drexel),
- Andrew Funk, SG (17.6 PPG at Bucknell),
- Michael Henn, PF (8.8 PPG at Denver)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Kebba Njie, PF (4-star, No. 111),
- Jameel Brown, SG (3-star, No. 135),
- Kanye Clary, PG (3-star, No. 180),
- Evan Mahaffey, SF (3-star, No. 183),
- Demetrius Lilley, C (3-star, No. 259)
RETURNING MINUTES: 56.4 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
This will be a fun team to see how Shrewsberry works with the pieces he has available. All of his main weapons fall into the 6-foot-8 or smaller, perimeter scoring category. That means we’ll probably see a lot of up-tempo offense with plenty of five-out action, and it wouldn’t be surprising if PSU gets a bit more aggressive and tries to force the action on the defensive end. The key to making it all work might be at point guard. Can Wynter’s play translate to high major, or can Pickett be a true point guard in the Big Ten? Also, one of the young big men (Njie, Lilley) surprising on the upside early would go a long way.
WHY IT WON’T
John Harrar was not only the heart and soul of last year’s team, he was their only capable big body in the paint. It isn’t clear PSU will have anyone with size ready to contend in the paint. Penn State has a top-five recruiting class in the Big Ten, but most of that is based on volume (five players) rather than a projection suggesting they have players ready to make major contributions in year one. Penn State has more talent than recent Nebraska teams, but the Cornhuskers have proven it is difficult to win playing a spread, fast style in the league without proven size.
Shrewsberry is a good coach, and this team will play hard and give teams plenty of headaches in what should be a down year in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions could end up being the league’s most enigmatic team, pulling off upsets with hot shooting nights, and losing to bottom feeders when shots are not falling. If they buy in on the defensive end there isn’t a team in the league who can take this Nittany Lions squad lightly.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Middle of the pack.
MORE BIG TEN OUTLOOKS:
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