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2012-13 Preview: #11 Penn State Nittany Lions

Pat Chambers is back for his second year at the helm and returns the biggest piece of last year’s team in senior point guard Tim Frazier. While Frazier could put together a spectacular season, the key for Penn State is getting good experience for their younger kids.

Last year the Nits struggled on both sides of the ball and they will again this season, but there are areas where they should be able to show at least modest improvement.

Penn State is capable of pulling off a couple impressive victories, but they’ll be near the bottom of the Big Ten again in 2012-13.

Glass Half Full

Solid Core

If Tim Frazier can shoot the ball a bit better, his already high value to the team will increase substantially. Speaking about Frazier at Big Ten Media Day, coach Chambers said, “I think we all know he needs to work on his jump shot and he’s done that. In practice so far he’s shooting his three’s at a high clip, which is great for us, almost makes him un-guardable…”

Even though Frazier only shot an effective field goal percentage of 44.6% (44.0 2FG%; 31.4 3FG%) in 2011-12, he posted an offensive rating of approximately 104 which is quite impressive considering his usage in nearly a third of Penn State’s possessions.

The 6’1” guard was one of the nation’s top assist men and regularly got himself to the free throw line. However, Frazier was the team’s only assist man and created most of his own shots. A little more team creativity on offense should produce higher percentage scoring opportunities for him.

On defense last year he was a big time thief (4.0 steal %) and with the ball cut down his own turnovers significantly after struggling in his first two seasons.

D.J. Newbill sat out last year after transferring from Southern Mississippi and has three years of eligibility remaining. He’s a big, physical but skilled guard that can do it all and will make his presence felt.  One area Penn State needs to improve on is getting guys other than Tim Frazier to the line and Newbill will certainly help in that regard. He’s an impact newcomer to the conference this year.

Ross Travis is a sophomore forward from Minnesota (Chaska HS) who showed some of his rebounding ability as a freshman, but has a lot more to offer including the ability to score and play multiple positions. Travis, who has one cousin at Harvard (sophomore Jonah Travis) and another in the strong 2014 Minnesota high school class (Jonah’s brother Reid) only averaged 17.9 minutes and 4.4 points per game as a freshman, but don’t sleep – he’s a player.

3-Point Shooting

If for no other reason than regression to the mean, the gap in 3-point shooting between Penn State and their opponents will probably decline in 2012-13. Penn State’s 3FG% figures on offense and defense were awful:

Overall Conf Only
Penn State 31.1% 29.8%
Opponents 38.2% 40.5%

Free Throw Rate

Similar to 3-point shooting, the disparity was so great a year ago that it would be tough be much worse.  The Nittany Lions attempted 296 free throws in conference play last year while their opponents earned 417 trips to the line or 41% more than Penn State.

Glass Half Empty

Reality

There are players to like on this team including those discussed above and redshirt junior guard Jermaine Marshall who averaged 27.1 minutes and 10.8 points per game, but the team’s talent just doesn’t match up with most of the Big Ten.

 Other Comments

  • In addition to losing Cammeron Woodyard (25.8 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg) to graduation, several other players are gone including transfers Matt Glover (23.5 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Trey Lewis (18.7 mpg, 5.6 ppg). Late last season, then-junior Billy Oliver (24.0 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg) ended his career early due to recurring concussion symptoms.
  • 2013 Recruiting: Philly stud Brandon Austin de-committed this summer, but Chambers has four pledged to next year’s recruiting class including combo guard Geno Thorpe, wing Payton Banks, local big man Julian Moore and Edina HS (Minn.) point guard Graham Woodward.
  • Area basketball fans can’t complain about ticket prices: lower bowl season tickets between the baselines cost just $200 with the remaining seating options priced at $180.  Season ticket holder benefits include a season parking pass good for all Bryce Jordan Center lots.

A Look Back at 2011-12 Preseason Preview Quote(s)
“There is no hope of the Nits returning to the tourney this year.”

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Minnesota Basketball Players Leading Teams Across The Nation in 2012-13

Alec Brown
Alec Brown of Wisconsin-Green Bay

The state of Minnesota continues to produce impressive basketball talent, including those who stay home and play for the Gophers. However, with so many skilled players and some excellent high school and AAU programs, there are numerous student-athletes from the state that join Division I programs across the country.

In 2012-13, a number of Minnesotans will be difference makers at their respective schools. Today, we highlight several players who look primed to take sizable steps forward in their collegiate careers.

Marshall Bjorklund, North Dakota State
Junior, Forward
2011-12: 26.2 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg

Not recognized nationally or in Minnesota as much as is probably warranted. Extremely efficient offensive player who shot 67.1% FG% last year.  Bjorklund doesn’t turn the ball over and is a very good on the offensive boards  Tough, solid interior guy.  The Gophers will host NDSU on December 11.

Alec Brown, UW-Green Bay
Junior, Center
2011-12: 31.3 mpg, 13.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 89 blk

Now a veteran at UWGB, he’ll need to lead a UWGB team that should be much improved compared to last year’s 15-15 team.  His game should continue to expand under third-year head coach Brian Wardle (Marquette, 2001).  It’s a huge year for both Brown and Wardle and one in which both of them are capable of earning national recognition.  With his skills and a bit more bulk, Brown could find himself on NBA draft boards.

Sam Dower, Gonzaga
Junior, Center/Forward
2011-12: 18.1 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Quietly very productive off the bench last year, he’ll look to prove just how good he can be in 2012-13. Zags center Robert Sacre was drafted by the Lakers this summer, giving Dower a great opportunity to impress.

Carlos Emory, Oregon
Senior, Forward
2011-12: 17.9 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg

High-flying 6’6” forward played his first year of D1 basketball last year at Oregon with Gopher transfer Devoe Joseph.  Emory is a big time athlete that will regularly make the highlight reel.

Ross Travis, Penn State
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 17.9 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg

With Tim Frazier on the team and transfer D.J. Newbill now eligible, Travis may not see his offensive usage go up tremendously, but he’ll be improved as a sophomore and should have a strong career at PSU.  Minnesota plays Penn State in Minneapolis on either March 2 or 3 (date to be determined).

Jonah Travis, Harvard
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 6.5 mpg, 2.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg

With an always impressive motor and significant added strength, it’s only a matter of time before Jonah shines at Harvard.

Shelby Moats, Vanderbilt
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 4.1 mpg, 0.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg

Moats didn’t see much playing time on a highly talented and senior-heavy team last year, but will be called upon often this year.

Kevin Noreen, West Virginia
Sophomore, Forward
2011-12: 12.0 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Received a medical hardship waiver for 2010-11 season and played just 23 games last year before breaking an ankle.  Noreen can be a prolific scorer and a match up problem for opponents at 6’10”.

In addition to the names above, there are returning players that look to build on their past success at the Division I level and may already have a bit more name recognition with followers of college basketball than those players listed above:

Mike Muscala, Bucknell, Sr, F/C: 17.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg. Muscala has impressed every year, but was superb as a junior. A strong senior season for the Bison could help his chances of reaching the NBA.

Nate Wolters, South Dakota St., Sr, G: 21.2 ppg, 5.9 apg, 5.1 rpg. Wolters is an ultra-productive point guard with good size. Some NBA teams will want to consider him next summer. Wolters & SDSU visit Williams Arena on December 4.

Trent Lockett, Marquette, Sr, G: 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg (with Arizona State). Big guard could be a difference maker in Milwaukee.

Jared Berggren, Wisconsin, Sr, F/C: 10.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg. Versatile 6’10” big man looks to build on solid 2011-12 performance.  The Gophers play at Wisconsin January 26 and host the Badgers on February 14.

Mike Bruesewitz, Wisconsin, Sr, F: 5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg. Bruesewitz is a high-energy worker who may increase his offensive production now that fellow Minnesotan Jordan Taylor has graduated.

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