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Big Ten men’s basketball preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

What can Micah Shrewsberry do in his first season as the head of the Nittany Lions

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 05 Purdue at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Penn State Nittany Lions

Head coach: Micah Shrewsberry
2020-21 record: 11-14 (7-12)
Season finish: No postseason

What comes back

To be honest, when last season ended, it looked like this could be a disaster season for the Nittany Lions. It seemed every productive player they had entered the transfer portal or graduated out and Pat Chambers was gone as their head coach.

Penn State and new coach Micah Shrewsberry did a good job salvaging parts of the team though, bringing back key pieces guard Sam Sessoms, guard Myles Dread, guard Seth Lundy and big man John Harrar. Dread and Lundy will come in as the top scorers returning to the team and Harrar is a double-double threat every time he steps on the court.

The Nittany Lions were able to secure four transfers into the program as well, including one of the top transfers into the conference in Siena’s Jalen Pickett. Pickett was a three-time All-MAAC selection at Siena and last season averaged 12.9 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and 4.8 assists per game. Pickett will look to come in and be one the top offensive options for the Nittany Lions immediately.

The Nittany Lions are also bringing in guard Jaheam Cornwall from Gardner-Webb, forward Jelanni White from Canisius and Jevonnie Scott is coming in from South Plains College and Greg Lee is coming in from Western Michigan. Cornwall averaged over 14 points per game last season with 3.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, White averaged four points per game and 2.2 rebounds per game and Scott averaged 11.5 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game in 20 minutes per game. The 6’9 forward Lee averaged 13 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game and was one of the top big men in the MAC last season.

All of these guys have the potential to play significant minutes for the Nittany Lions as transfers and step into the roles that need filled due to the guys that transferred out.

What was lost

Even though the Nittany Lions did have some players return, they did lose a strong part of their rotation. Namely, starting point guard Jamari Wheeler. Wheeler has been one of the best defenders in the conference and in the country in his time at Penn State and now that defense and leadership is in Columbus, with Wheeler transferring to Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions also lost their two top scorers from last season. Guard Myreon Jones is heading to Florida after averaging 15.3 points per game and Izaiah Brockington is heading to Iowa State after averaging 12.6 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game as Penn State’s all around best and most versatile player.

Guard Trent Buttrick, Patrick Kelly and DJ Gordon all are also transferring out after not seeing the floor a substantial amount in their careers at Penn State.

Against Ohio State in the Chris Holtmann era

Penn State and Ohio State have faced each other 60 times in the history of the two programs, with Ohio State winning 41 of those 60 matchups. In the Chris Holtmann era, suffice to say it was a tough start to the Penn State series, with Ohio State losing to Penn State three times in the first season under Holtmann.

In that season, the Buckeyes only lost nine total games and three of those came to Penn State, including in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Since then, over the past three seasons, Penn State has not had the same success, going just 1-4 over the past three seasons.

Season prediction

Penn State is likely not looking at an NCAA tournament appearance this upcoming season, but they do have a nice mix of key pieces and impactful transfers coming into the team for the first season under Shrewsberry.

A big part of Penn State’s season will be how fast and well the transfers adapt to he team and the conference. They will need those guys to be productive and sooner rather than later.