Penn State Men’s Basketball Beginning Big Ten Play
The Nittany Lions ended their non-conference schedule on a high note extending their winning streak to four games with their win over Duquesne, but they will now face what may be their toughest conference schedule in recent history.
Penn State currently stands at 8-4 on the season, but the Lions have faced much adversity thus far. Senior Guard and team leader Tm Frazier was widely considered one of the top guards in the country coming into the 2012-13 campaign, however, just a few games into the season the shifty guard was helped off the court just a few minutes into the game against Akron with an injured Achilles.
The Lions’ ability to persevere and move forward despite the odds has been the story thus far and will continue to be as the season progresses. Guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall have stepped into unexpected roles to keep the Lions alive this season. With the team’s leader in most major categories from last season, Frazier, sitting on the bench for the remainder of the year, the Lions have been forced to find production elsewhere. Besides Marshall and Newbill, Penn State forward Ross Travis has found somewhat of a rhythm within the Nittany Lions’ offense averaging 7.6 ppg while grabbing 7.4 rpg. Another unlikely major contributor for the Lions this season has been freshman standout Brandon Taylor. The 6-foot-7 forward has fulfilled his role plus some as he is averaging 7.3 ppg while shooting over 37 percent from downtown.
While the Lions have persevered through the rough start to the season, the schedule doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way. Within the Big Ten Conference there are currently six teams ranked inside the Top 25, four of which are within the Top 10. Penn State will have their hands full as they enter into conference play in what may very well be the best overall conference this year in college basketball. The depth of the Big Ten this season is unmatched as every team, besides Purdue at 6-6, is at least four games above .500.
For a Nittany Lion team that finished tied for last in the conference last season with a record of 4-14, this season’s conference schedule will prove to be a true test for how far second year head coach Pat Chambers has brought Penn State. With the loss of their leader in Frazier, that road to rising up the ranks in the Big Ten has become more challenging.
The rest of the season will be difficult, but Penn State developed an identity as a Cinderella-type upset team last season taking multiple ranked teams to the edge and even knocking off a ranked Illinois squad at home last January. If Pat Chambers can lead the Lions to developing a similar identity this year, Penn State may be able to remain competitive in most games.
Penn State will need help from key reserves on the team and leadership from the guard positions with Newbill and Marshall if they want to improve and rise up within the Big Ten standings this season. The Nittany Lions will begin conference play this Thursday night as they travel to face a tough Wisconsin team (9-4, 0-0 Big Ten) before returning home to tip-off with the No. 5 ranked Hoosiers of Indiana in Happy Valley on Jan. 7.
Sean Flanery is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.