Penn State is already 2-0 after taking care of William & Mary and New Jersey Tech. The remaining portion of their schedule should present more of a challenge.
Overview: Hartford went 18-16 last season, but they probably weren't that good, ranking #3 by Pomeroy Luck. Still, that's a banner season for a team that had not enjoyed a winning season since 2002-03. That should continue, as the Hawks bring back 76.7% of the minutes from last season.
What to look for: The Hawks are an extreme POT, devoting 45.2% of their shots to three point range. And this team was pretty good at converting those attempts, connecting on 38.1% of them. But although the offense was much better than the defense, it was not particularly good. As one might expect, the offensive rebounding was horrid, but lots ofPOTs manage a decent offense in spite of such shortcomings. The real problem might have been the 21.3% TO Rate, which was unacceptably high for a team that prefers to keep it outside.
Who to watch: Joe Zeglinski is the main offensive weapon for the Hawks. He's an excellent outside shooter, connecting on 41% of his 251 three point attempts. MorganSabia is a big man in the Alex Ruoff mold, preferring to shoot 3s. While he was 41.7% from 3 in his freshman season, his 69.2% FT shooting indicates that he might take a step back.
Expect the unexpected: As I alluded to earlier, the Hawks' defense was not good, in part because of how short it was. Perhaps as a result, Coach DanLeibovitz brought in two 6-9 freshman. Still, I wouldn't expect this game to be dominated by defense.
Chance of a Penn State victory: 80%
Overview: Since 1992, there might not be a team that's dominated its conference more than the Penn Quakers have dominated the Ivy League. In that 16 year span, the Quakers have gone undefeated in the Ivy five times. They've lost only one game another 3 times. It's been nothing short of dominance, ceding the conference crown only occasionally (usually to Princeton). So last year's 13-18 record and 3rd place finish in the Ivy was a big disappointment. Quaker fans are hopeful this isn't just the beginning, as Glen Miller took over for FranDunphy (now at Temple) in 2006.
What to look for: What went wrong? In a nutshell - everything. The offense got a lot worse, and so did the defense. The cause? Well, losing IbrahimJaaber and Mark Zoller was a big part of the problem with the Quaker offense. And defense too - the duo posted impressive steal rates. The team also lost SteveDanley, a shotblocking presence on the inside.
Who to watch: The 6-6 forward Tyler Bernardini had an impressive freshman campaign, and if he takes another step forward this season, the Quakers could be right back on top.
Expect the unexpected: The Quakers lose leading scorer Brian Grandieri, and someone else needs to step up. Bernardini's shot diet was already high last season, so ideally somebody else can take on a lot of the load. The list of candidates is long, though none stand out. There just weren't a lot of good shooters last season.
Chance of a Penn State victory: 60%
Overview: Rhode Island went 21-11 last season, and was bounced in the first round of the NIT by Creighton. The Rams return 63% of the minutes from last season.
What to look for: This was a well-oiled machine on the offensive end last season. They shot well, took care of the ball, and was excellent at crashing the glass. The real problem was the defense, specifically defensive rebounding.
Who to watch: The challenge for the Rams this season will be to replace Will Daniels, who took and converted a lot of shots. Jimmy Baron figures to be the likely replacement, and so far, that seems to be true. Baron dropped 24 on Duke in the Rams' first loss of the season - all points were scored from behind the arc.
Expect the unexpected: Senior Kahiem Seawright lived at the FT line last season. His 91.8 FT Rate was 8th in the nation. Keeping Seawright away from the foul stripe will be a tall task for the Lions.
Chance of a Penn State victory: 50%
at Georgia Tech
Overview: Georgia Tech experienced the downside of bringing in elite talent. With Javaris Crittendon and Thaddeus Young, this was a 20-win team. They returned just about everyone except those two this season, and went 15-17. The Yellow Jackets return 63% of the minutes from that campaign, so we can expect about the same this season, though we might see some real improvement if #22RSCI PG Iman Shumpert is as good as advertised.
What to look for: Georgia Tech was a very good offensive team last season, but the defense struggled. That's a recipe for a high scoring game (along with the Jackets' 70 possession average).
Who to watch: The Nittany Lions caught a break when senior guard Lewis Clinch was ruled academically ineligible for the first seven games. Clinch wasn't efficient, but he did consume a lot of shots. In his absence, Zach Peacock will bear a greater offensive load.
Expect the unexpected: One thing that has been a consistent under Coach Hewitt's regime is the Yellow Jackets' unwillingness to trade some defensive pressure for fewer FT attempts for opponents.
Chance of a Penn State victory: 40%
Overview: Temple won the A10 Tournament en route to a 21 win season which concluded with a first round exit against Michigan State. The Owls return 69% of the minutes from last season, so there's good reason to predict similarly strong results this season.
What to look for: For three straight seasons from 2003 to 2006 (back when John Chaney was running things), Temple boasted the lowest turnover rate in the country. That hasn't changed much under the direction of FranDunphy, but it has changed. Furthermore, Dunphy's teams pay a price for their low TO Rates on the offensive glass.
Who to watch: Penn State plays Temple in December, and they would do well to keep their eye on Christmas - Dionte Christmas, that is. Although Christmas was born in September, his game bears gifts for the Temple offense. He can hurt teams inside and out, and likely will average about 20 points a game for the third consecutive season.
Expect the unexpected: Chaney's matchup-zone was memorable, but at least in the later years, it was not particularly effective. The Owls' defense has taken a turn for the better underDunphy, and it was somewhat hidden by the Owls' poor "FT defense."
Chance of a Penn State victory: 40%
Overview: Up until a couple of years ago, winning more than 5 games against D-I competition was a big deal for the Black Knights. That era might be over, as Army has posted back-to-back seasons with at least 13 wins.
What to look for: The Army offense is still awful, but the defense drives this team. The Black Knights force turnovers at a blistering rate (26.6%). And that's with opponents keeping it on the perimeter.
Who to watch: How the Black Knights replace Jarell Brown will go a long way in determining how successful they are. Brown was a bright spot on a team full of inefficient scorers. Cleveland Richard appears to be the go-to player at this point in the season, but his numbers last year were not inspiring.
Expect the unexpected: Army is one of the shortest teams in the nation, but their defense keeps things out on the perimeter so that weakness isn't exploited all that much.
Chance of a Penn State victory: 70%
Mount St. Mary's
Overview: Despite finishing in a tie for 4th in the Northeast Conference, MSMU won the conference tourney and the subsequent "play in" game in the NCAA Tournament, and was rewarded for their efforts by lining up againstUNC. It was not pretty.
What to look for: The Mountaineers sported a very good eFG defense last season, limiting opponents to 32.2% shooting from 3, and 46.7% shooting from 2.
Who to watch: PG Jeremy Goode is kind of a weird player. He's got good PG skills, but he's a 5-9 player who plays like he's 6-5. His 3 point shooting is horrid (29.9%), but his 2 point shooting is much better than you would expect of a player of his stature (47.2%). Furthermore, he gets to the line like he's Carl Landry, attempting over 250 free throws last season.
Expect the unexpected: Even though MSMU doesn't like to shoot 3s, their offensive rebounding is bad. This could be a lack of athleticism, but there's probably also a lack of height component to this. MSMU was one of the shortest teams in the country, but they did bring in three 6-7 freshmen this season.
Chance of a Penn State victory: 80%
Overview: The Leopards went 15-15 last season, which was a big step forward from the 7-21 record in the previous season. They lose some big minutes though, so it's unlikely that they'll replicate that success.
What to look for: Bombs away! Lafayette was one of the best three point shooting teams in the country last season. Not only did they shoot well (39.7%) from behind the arc, but they shot often (45.4% of all field goals).
Who to watch: Offensive leader Andrew Brown returns, but much of his supporting cast is gone. Bilal Abdullah and Matt Betley were extremely efficient on substantial shot diets. For the most part, the returning players were role players.
Expect the unexpected: This is another short team, and teams ate them up on the offensive glass. That's good news for a Penn State team that crashes the offensive glass.
Chance of a Penn State victory: 90%
Overview: Sacred Heart finished 18-14 for the second consecutive season last year, and although they lose some effective players, there's still enough here for this team to post a winning record again.
What to look for: A free throw attempt might be a cause for the band to break out in a fight song this season. The Pioneers were already one of the worst teams in the country at getting to the line last year, and they lose every player in the rotation that had a semblance of skill in this area, with the exception of...
Who to watch: ...Joey Henley, who is back after sitting out last season with a knee injury. Not only is he an effective scorer, but also a solid defensive presence. CoreyHassan and Ryan Litke provide an effective supporting cast.
Expect the unexpected: It's too bad this team will likely struggle to get to the line. When they get there, they make the shots (73.4%).
Chance of a Penn State victory: 70%
*For a team that might find itself fighting for a postseason bid, it's imperative to "schedule for success." I think the Lions have done just that. The schedule includes a lot of bunnies, but there's also a handful of games against other teams that figure to end up on the bubble. If Penn State can snag a victory or two out of those, it will really help at the discussion table for a selection committee. Whether that committee is deciding NCAA bids or NIT bids will depend on how theNittany Lions perform in Big Ten play.