As we enter the fall season and college football gets underway, college basketball is right around the corner. As always, to prepare you for the season, Land-Grant Holy Land will be publishing Big Ten Team Previews and Ohio State Basketball Player Previews, starting now with the Team Previews.
Team: Penn State Nittany Lions
Head coach: Mike Rhoades, First Season
2022-23 record: 23-14
All-time record against Ohio State: 21-43
Returners: Kanye Clary, Demetrius Lilley, Jameel Brown
Departures: Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy, Andrew Funk, Myles Dread, Camren Wynter, Michael Henn, Caleb Dorsey, Dallion Johnson, Evan Mahaffey, Kebba Njie
Newcomers: Ace Baldwin Jr., Nick Kern Jr, Zach Hicks, Puff Johnson, Qudus Wahab, Leo O’Boyle, RayQuawndis Mitchell, Favour Aire, D’Marco Dunn, Bragi Guomundsson
Penn State lost its head coach Micah Shrewsberry to Notre Dame, and what followed was a complete retooling of its roster. They were going to lose a lot of players anyway, since they were one of the oldest teams in the country last season. Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy, Andrew Funk, Myles Dread, and Camren Wynter have all moved on from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, and it is up to new head Mike Rhoades to get the program back to where it was last season.
Pickett was one of the best players in the country last season, averaging 17.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. He did everything for the Nittany Lions, and replacing the production he gave them will be nearly impossible.
Pickett, Lundy, Funk, Dread and Wynter were the five leading scorers for Penn State last season, averaging 58.8 points per and 21.6 rebounds per game — all of them are now gone.
Ace Baldwin follows his coach to Happy Valley from VCU after averaging 12.7 points and 5.8 assists per game last season. The only other players on the roster to average double digits a year ago are RayQuawndis Mitchell from Kansas City, who averaged 17.3 points per game, and Leo O’Boyle, a transfer from Lafayette who averaged 11.3 points per game in 2022-23.
Puff Johnson, Qudus Wahab and D’Marco Dunn all have Power Five experience, and will look to elevate their previous roles at Penn State with Rhoades. Nick Kern Jr. will join Baldwin as a former player at VCU to follow coach Rhoades to Happy Valley.
Mike Rhoades is a great coach, and to go to him from Shrewsberry is a solid one-two punch. However, the Nittany Lions were already going to have a large rebuild ahead of them as one of the most experienced and veteran teams in the country last season, and changing a coach depleted the roster even more. It will be up to Rhoades over the next few seasons to get back to a high level of recruiting and hitting the transfer portal for guys like Pickett, Funk and Wynter.
Baldwin is one of the top transfers in the conference, and the duo from North Carolina should be able to step into large roles immediately. However, the depth is a large question mark, and the team will be relying on a lot of guys who have talent but have not proven themselves at this high of a level before.
It could be a long season in Happy Valley, but Rhoades is a great recruiter and will bring in a lot of talent and develop players. He just might need 2-3 years to get things going.